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On the Edges 
of Time 


Rathindranath Tagore 









ON THE EDGES OF TIME 






Rathindranath Tagore 

1888-1961 


ON THE EDGES 
OF TIME 

RATHINDRANATH TAGORE 


Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time 
like dew on the tip of a leaf. 

The Gardener, xlv 


V!SV*-»HAKATI 


622 


U*R ART 


VISVA-BHARATI 


CALCUTTA 




Published June 1958 


Second Edition : Visva-Bharati : June 1981 


Published by Sri Jagadindra Bhowmick 
Visva-Bharati Publishing Department 
6 Acharya Jagadish Bose Road, Calcutta 17 

Printed by Kali Charan Pal 
Nabajiban Press 
66 Grey Street, Calcutta 6 



To the memory of 


YUSUF MEHERALLY 
# 

but for whose encouragement and insistence 
this book would never have been completed or published 




CONTENTS 


PAGE 

A Boy is Born i 

The Tagores 2 

Prince Dwarkanath 3 

Our House at Jorasanko 5 

My Uncles 6 

A Dinner Party 8 

Disconnected Memories 9 

Anniversary of Brahmo Samaj 13 

Kham-Kheyali Sabha 14 

Bengal. Provincial Conference 16 

Congress Session 1896 18 

At Shelidah 19 

Visitors at Shelidah 23 

Father’s Literary Output 27 

His Managerial Work 28 

A Business Venture 29 

A Dramatic Episode 30 

The Boat Padma 33 

A Trip to the Himalayas 38 

Early Days at Santiniketan 41 

A Summer Vacation at Santiniketan 47 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream 51 

The Shadow of Death 52 

The Swadeshi Movement 57 

Outward Bound 65 

My First Glimpse of the U.S.A. 67 

Cosmopolitan Club 69 

Homeward Bound 71 

Shelidah Again 73 

Vichitra and the Art Movement in Bengal 76 

Dramas and Play-acting 82 

Pareshnath 92 

Giridih 94 

With Father in London 97 

In the U.S.A. 107 



PAGE 


Father’s Foreign Tours 

109 

A Travel Diary 

112 

A Still-born Trip to Norway 

120 

Paris Diary 

121 

With Father on the Continent 

126 

Visit to Italy 

136 

Frontiers in Europe 

140 

A Swiss Peasant 

141 

Potisar 

144 

Father as I Knew Him 

147 

The Tagore Family Trees 

163 

Index 

164 


The twelve illustrations which appear at the head of 
pages 1, 19, 33, 38, 41, 57, 65, 76, 92, 97, 144, 147 
were drawn by Prasanta Roy. The photograph of 
Rathindranath published in this book is in the collec- 
tion of Rabindra-Bhavana, Santiniketan. 



PREFACE 


I am told these reminiscences may be of some help 
to those who are interested in the life and works 
of my father. My memory chooses to highlight cer- 
tain events without going into factual details or 
following a chronological sequence, but it is possible 
that from the somewhat disconnected anecdotes 
penned during leisure hours at different times and 
put together in these pages, the reader may obtain 
glimpses of some aspects of my father’s personality 
not dealt with by his biographers. 

I shall remain ever grateful to Krishna Kripalani. 
Indira Devi Chaudhuram, Nirmal Chandra Chatterji, 
Amal. Home and especially to Kshitis Roy for their 
ungrudging help in various ways in the preparation 
of this book. Thanks are also due to the Visva- 
Bharati for permission to use certain portions that 
have appeared in the pages of the Visva-Bliarati 
Quarterly. 


[ 1958 ] 


Rathindranath Tagore 




ON THE EDGES 
OF TIME 





A Boy is Born 

In my uncle Satyendranath’s house, where the grown-up 
members of the family gathered almost every evening, there used 
to lie a bound volume of blank pages in which w?re jotted down 
conundrums, witty remarks, nonsense rhymes, as also words of 
wisdom that occurred to the minds of those who happened to 
be present. The book was called the Pari bank Khata — the 
Family Notebook. While looking through its pages I came 
across pencilled notes which could not fail to interest me. Even 
at the risk of breaking the solemn rule that the contents of the 
book were not to be published I am quoting the words. May 
my ancestors forgive me ! 

Uncle Rabi’s Baby — A forecast. 

Uncle’s baby will be a fortunate boy, not a girl. 

He will not be as laughter-loving as uncle, but 
comparatively serious. He will not go about doing 
social work but will prefer to live apart in solitude 
and devote himself to religious prayer. 

Park Street House 

November 1888 Hitendranath Tagore 

Hit-da, the subject of your prophecy has now become visible. 
One must admit that he is serious by nature. But I don’t think 
the baby will become a forest sage instead of a social creature. 
And because he is serious it does not follow that he won’t laugh. 
Uncle Rabi’s nature is also fundamentally serious if you Come 
to think of it. There is a difference between seriousness and 
moroseness. 


March 1890 


Balendranath Tagore 



2 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


How far the above prophecies made by my cousins have 
come,, true is not for me to say, but I must disclaim the credit 
of having spent my days in prayer and meditation. 

To be born in a family where more than a hundred members 
lived under one roof is a matter of no great significance in our 
country. Moreover, I happened to be the son of the youngest 
of the brothers, my father being the last surviving son of my 
grandfather. Our Jorasanko house had seen so many grandsons 
born before my appearance on the scene that I suppose the 
event was not considered worth celebrating. Nevertheless my 
mother must have felt some pride and satisfaction in having 
given birth to her first male child, although he did not promise 
to be as fair and good-looking as her first-born. My sister was 
indeed a very pretty child and therefore much petted by the 
whole family. My life thus started with a handicap which gave 
me a complex that has been difficult to overcome even at a 
mature age. Moreover, T remained the youngest of the cousins. 
Even as a child I felt my inferior position and this made me 
more and more of a retiring and unsociable disposition as T 
grew up. In a joint family the children have many advantages, 
but there is also the danger of competition beginning at too 
early an age and this is to the disadvantage of those who are 
weak and suffer under some handicap. 


The Tagores 

The Tagores belong to the Bandyopadhyaya group of Bengali 
Brahmins. The genealogy can be traced back to Daksha, one 
of the five Brahmins who were imported sometime in the 8th 
century from Kanauj to help in reviving orthodox Hinduism 
in Buddhist-ridden Bengal. The descendants of this Brahmin 
moved from one place to another until one Panchanan in 1690 
settled down at Govindapur near Calcutta. The opportunities 
of making money in this flourishing mercantile town, the 
stronghold of the East India Company, finally attracted the 
family to Calcutta in the latter part of the eighteenth century 
and they built their homes at Pathuriaghata and Jorasanko. 

There is a story that, while the family was living at a place 
near Khulna and serving the Moslem governor there, two of 
the brothers lost their caste in a peculiar manner. It happened 



PRINCE DWARKANATH 


3 


this way. The brother Kamadev one day during the fast of 
Roza noticed that a courtier of the Governor was smelling a 
lemon. Jestingly Kamadev told him that he had broken his 
fast because, according to the Sastras , smelling is half-eating. 
The courtier did not argue with him but repeated the words to 
the Governor. A few days later the members of the Thakur 
family (the name of Tagore had not come into use at that 
time) along with other Hindus were invited by the Governor 
to attend a musical entertainment. In the adjoining room a 
feast consisting of meat dishes was being prepared. The savoury 
smell penetrated to the entertainment hall. Holding their noses, 
the Hindus wanted to leave. The Governor told them that 
since by smelling they have partially eaten the dishes they 
might as well stay and do full justice to them. Kamadev and 
his followers thus lost their caste arid were looked down upon 
by orthodox Hindus as Pirali (Pir-Ali) Brahmins. 

Not only were the ancestors of the Tagores wanderers in the 
province of Bengal moving from one place to another and never 
settling down, but latterly they were looked upon as outcasts. 
They had to depend upon their own resources and struggle to 
win any sort of position in society. They soon found that this 
could be done only by accumulation of wealth. These two 
factors probably helped to develop the pioneering spirit and 
the freedom of mind that could rise above all social and 
religious conventions which are the basic characteristics of the 
Tagore family. Once they had accumulated wealth and gained 
the assurance of comfortable living their spirit went adventur- 
ing in other realms and their talents effloresced in many a 
direction. 


Prince Dwarkanath 

My great-grandfather, Dwarkanath Tagore, was a romantic 
figure. Contemporary of Rammohan Roy, the Father of the 
Renaissance Movement of Bengal, he was closely associated 
with him in all his activities and rendered financial help when- 
ever required. The East India Company were by this time 
firmly established in Bengal and were rapidly building up 
their trade. Dwarkanath’s knowledge of English helped him 
to take advantage of the conditions prevailing under the 



4 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Company’s rule and he was able at quite an early age not only 
to amass a fortune but also to gain high offices under the 
British. With Rammohan Roy he took a leading part in all 
the movements for the promotion of higher education and 
social welfare. There was hardly any institution founded during 
his life-time that did not owe its existence to the generous 
charity of Dwarkanath. He came to be known as Prince 
Dwarkanath in recognition of his benefactions. His business 
enterprises extended to fields unexplored by Indians in those 
days. He had a fleet of cargo boats for trading between India 
and England. To improve his business connections and gain 
further concessions from the Company, he himself went to 
England accompanied by his youngest son, Nagendranath. I 
have had occasion to read the diary kept by this grand-uncle 
of mine. It describes vividly and in very chaste English the 
social life Of the aristocracy of England in the early Victorian 
age as seen through the eyes of an Indian. There is also an 
interesting description of his adventurous journey across the 
country from Bombay to Calcutta at a time when India was 
in a very disturbed condition on the eve of the Sepoy Mutiny. 

Soon after landing in London Dwarkanath became a 
favourite of Queen Victoria and of the court circle. There are 
many amusing stories told about his exploits in England and 
France some of which I came to know from the letters written 
by his valet. While staying in London he was once invited to 
a hunting party. The arrangement was that the party would 
call at his hotel to pick him up and ride out to the country 
where the hunt would take place. When his friends came he 
begged to be excused complaining of a rheumatic pain in the 
leg which rendered him unfit for riding. After much persua- 
sion he was prevailed upon to accompany them, not riding on a 
horse but comfortably seated in a carriage. Thus the Londoners 
were treated to the amusing spectacle that morning of an Indian 
gentleman driving in state escorted by a bodyguard of aristo- 
cratic ladies and gentlemen. 

In Paris he was once invited by a Countess to her salon, 
where he noticed a Kashmir shawl used as a hanging on the 
wall. The Countess proudly drew the attention of the Prince 
to this decoration. A return invitation followed in due course. 
As the Countess and her friends took leave the Prince presented 



OUR HOUSE AT JORASANKO 5 

each of them with an expensive Kashmir shawl. 

It is believed that the important business which took the 
Prince to England was - to try to negotiate with the British 
government for an izara (permanent lease) of the provinces of 
Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in supersession of the East India 
Company. He was well received by Queen Victoria. But this 
ambitious project of his came to nothing on account of his 
sudden death under somewhat mysterious circumstances. 

Our House at Jorasanko 

Our house has had an interesting history. As I have already 
said, my forefathers migrated to Calcutta in the early days of 
the East India Company, and, having helped in the erection 
of Fort William, made enough money to construct a palatial 
building of their own at Jorasanko in the northern quarter of 
the town. Other gentry were attracted to this quarter which 
gradually became the most fashionable part of the city, with 
elegant houses vying with each other. It is a pity that most of 
these houses are being crowded out or demolished to make 
room for hideous modern mansions. The architecture of that 
period with high columned facades and a series of interior 
courtyards was not only dignified but most suited to the tropi- 
cal climate. 

After the death of the Prince, my grandfather, Maharshi 
Devendranath Tagore, became the head of the family. Although 
for many years he lived away from the family residence in a 
separate house in Park Street, his commanding personality knit 
the numerous members of the family into a homogeneous body. 
They were also deeply influenced by his spiritual life. My second 
uncle Satyendranath, as an I.C.S. officer in the Bombay Presi- 
dency, had necessarily to live away from the family and on 
retirement chose to settle down at Ballygunge. 

At Jorasanko lived the direct descendants of the Maharshi 
at No. 6, Dwarkanath Tagore Lane. It was a huge rambling 
house spread over an acre of ground with wide verandahs and 
large halls around the outer courtyard and a series of dark and 
dingy corridors and staircases and rooms, where no sunlight 
ever penetrated, which gave us the creeps whenever as children 
we had to pass through them. At No. 5, the handsome residence 



6 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


opposite to ours, livecj my three artist cousins Gaganendra, 
Samarendra and Abanindra. 


My Uncles 

Our boyhood days were divided between these different 
surroundings. Each had its own characteristic contribution to 
make on our impressionable minds. At the Park Street house 
leaders of the Brahmo Samaj and ardent devotees of other 
religious movements from every province of India were cons- 
tantly to be found come to pay their respects to the Maharshi 
or to hold discourses on problems of philosophy and religion 
with him. With what awe we went into the room to take the 
dust of his feet and to be blest in return ! Coming down the 
stairs we would with no less awe peep into the room where 
sat my eldest uncle Dwijendranath. But very often this awe 
would turn into amusement on hearing peals of loud laughter 
bursting from the doors of his room and shaking the whole 
house. His life was devoted exclusively to philosophical studies 
among which the most important of his contributions was a 
comparative study of the philosophy of Kant and the Vedanta. 
In worldly affairs he was like a child — quite unlike the 
Maharshi. In his early days he had written in his inimitable 
style an allegorical poem which has remained a classic in Bengali 
literature. But poetry was not his metier — his mind dwelt in 
the abstract region of the intellect. He used to work from early 
morning till late at night. When tired he had three alternative 
means of recreation — indulging in the solution of mathemati- 
cal problems, constructing boxes with folded paper, or re-read- 
ing Robinson Crusoe or some novel by Sir Walter Scott. Many 
amusing stories were told of this naive philosopher, whose 
Tolstoy-like figure could be seen every morning riding on a tri- 
cycle through the crowded and fashionable Park Street, serenely 
indifferent to the effect he created. To avoid the trouble of but- 
toning up he would always wear two coats, one in the normal 
manner and the other back to front. One day, unable to find 
any audience to hear an erudite lecture he had written for a 
learned gathering, he got an illiterate maid-servant to sit before 
him and listen to the long discourse on The Search after 
Truth’ ! Many of his friends and admirers would often patiently 



MY UNCLES 


7 


sit with him waiting with an empty stomach for lunch or dinner 
to which they had been invited but which was never served for 
the simple reason that he had forgotten to order it. But perhaps 
most of them did not mind it, since they got more soul-satisfy- 
ing food from Uncle Dwijendranath’s brilliant talks interspersed 
with many a humorous anecdote and followed inevitably by 
peals of laughter. His was a rare personality, the product of an 
age which is perhaps lost for ever. 

The world in which my second uncle Satyendranath’s family 
lived, almost next door to that of my grandfather the Maharshi 
and my eldest uncle Dwijendranath, was of a quite different 
flavour. Aunt Jnanadanandini presided over the Inga-Banga 
Samaj consisting of English-educated Indians who had drifted 
away from their orthodox relatives and friends and formed a 
community of their own, settling down at Ballygunge with the 
European quarters of the city in close proximity. This, how- 
ever, did not promote social relationship between the two. The 
Indian element was isolated both from its compatriots as well 
as from its rulers. Theirs was a small world but a very dis- 
tinguished one. Although they had adopted the English mode 
of living and imbibed English ways of thinking, it need not 
be supposed that they were anti-national. As a matter of fact 
the national movement of the Congress owes its existence 
and support to the intellectuals belonging to this group — 
and what a galaxy of intellect and talent ! The doors of 
my aunt’s house were open to all members of this community. 

The afternoons would start with tennis and tea and end 
with supper. I was too much of a child to gain much by con- 
tact with the people who frequented the house. My father 
owned a carriage drawn by an old piebald mare. Almost every 
afternoon we would drive to Park Street. On the return journey 
through the lonely streets late at night the rhythmic clatter of 
the hooves and the weird effect of light and shadow alternately 
cast by the gas lamps would at first cause my sensitive mind 
to imagine all sorts of fairy-tales. This, however, was followed 
by a deep slumber out of which my mother would shake me 
when the carriage turned into the all-too-familiar lane leading 
to our house. 



8 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


A Dinner Party 

Among the many persons who frequented my aunt’s drawing- 
room may be mentioned the names of Taraknath Palit, S. P. 
Sinha, W. C. Bonnerjee, Krishna Govinda Gupta, Bihari Lar 
Gupta, Ashutosh Chaudhuri and his brothers, Manmohan 
Ghose, Lalmohan Ghose and Rashbehari Ghose. They were 
certainly the foremost leaders of intellectual Bengal towards 
the end of the last century. Taraknath will be remembered with 
gratitude in Bengal, along with Rashbehari, as the philanthro- 
pist who left all his fortune, earned during a brilliant career 
at the Bar of the High Court of Calcutta, for the promotion of 
scientific studies. The Indian National Congress must also 
have freely drawn from his largesse during his life-time. Father 
was attracted to Taraknath’s son, Loken Palit who, after his 
education in Oxford, came back from England as an I.C.S. 
officer. Loken Palit had a genuine love for literature and espe- 
cially for poetry. Father found in him a sincere admirer of his 
writings, one on whose critical judgment he could rely. The 
letters exchanged between Father and Loken Palit, some of 
which have been published, show the deep attachment between 
them. 

Besides Taraknath, most of the other persons I have men- 
tioned were top-rank lawyers. In those days there were very 
few openings for the educated young men — the most intelli- 
gent among them were drawn to the legal profession. They 
provided leadership to the political movement and laid the 
foundation of the Indian National Congress. But Father had 
little faith in their politics. He realized the futility of holding 
meetings* and passing pious resolutions — the only programme 
the Congress had in its early years. After a session of the 
Congress held in Calcutta, Taraknath gave a dinner at his house 
to the political leaders assembled on the occasion. It was to be 
more or less a self-congratulatory party. Father, much to his 
surprise, was amongst those invited. He was loth to go to an 
English dinner in honour of the leaders of the Indian National 
Congress. Taraknath was, however, insistent as he wished 
Father to entertain the guests with a few songs. Father’s resent- 
ment found voice in the words of the song he composed : 



DISCONNECTED MEMORIES 


9 


A may bolona gahite bolond... 

Do not ask me to sing, I pray you 
ask me not. 

Is this a mere matter of laugh and play, 
of merry making together 
and of falsehood and deceptions ? 

He had hardly any time to set it to music. This he did while 
driving to Palit’s house. 

The appearance of Father dressed in dhoti and chaddar in 
the midst of the anglicised diners was in itself a protest. When, 
on the top of this, he poured out in the song his pent-up sorrow 
and resentment, there was an embarrassing hush, after which 
the party broke up. 


Disconnected Memories 

Our stay in Calcutta did not last very long. My grandfather 
handed over the management of the family estate to my father 
when I was not yet eight years of age. Why he should have 
chosen his youngest son and one who was moreover a poet, is 
difficult to understand. The selection naturally aroused jealou- 
sies, especially because it carried an extra allowance. My father 
used to draw a monthly allowance of two hundred rupees from 
my grandfather as did the others who had families to maintain. 
To this was now added another hundred. How generous it 
seemed in those days but how ridiculous according to present 
standards ! A few disconnected memories of our life at Jora- 
sanko before we left for Shelidah, the headquarters of our 
estates, still linger in some comer of my mind but these are 
connected more with Mother than with Father. 

Father had his own study quite apart from the rooms which 
we occupied, and was either busy writing or meeting literary 
friends there. Once a week he would send for me and my sister 
and ask us to bring the clock before him. This particular clock 
was a precious heirloom. It was made to order for my great- 
grandfather, Prince Dwarkanath, by the famous McCabe. It 
took some years to finish, by which time the Prince had died. 
It took another year and a good deal of perseverance on the 
part of the clock-maker to find out the address of my grand- 



10 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


father and to have it sent to him. If he had been less honest 
he need not have done so, since the Prince had paid fully in 
advance and nobody except the Prince knew about it. The 
Maharshi made a gift of it to Father, who would never allow 
anybody else to touch it. There was quite a ceremony when the 
clock needed winding and my sister and I felt proud to be in- 
vited on these occasions. 

Amongst the many young poets and aspirants for literary 
fame who used to frequent Father’s study was Chittaranjan Das. 
He had then just joined the Calcutta High Court Bar after 
returning from England. Politics had no attraction for him 
then ; he wanted to be a poet. He would come directly from 
the court after long hours of waiting for a brief in the Bar 
Library and would run up the stairs two steps at a time shout- 
ing in his loud voice, ‘Auntie, Auntie, where is my meat 
curry ; I am famished, get it ready please.’ He was a good 
eater, and my mother loved to feed him. He would always 
bring a note-book in his pocket and read out his latest effu- 
sions in verse. Father would sometimes throw cold water on 
his efforts but more often encouraged him by suggesting altera- 
tions. 

Being of a sweet and affectionate nature, my mother was 
liked by all the members of the family. They came to her to 
be entertained and she shared in their happiness. They would 
also come to her when they were in any difficulty, and she 
shared their sorrows too. She bestowed her affection equally 
on everybody, but she had a specially soft comer for my 
cousin Balendra. He would not only read out to her his own 
writings but also the English and Sanskrit classics. Although 
my mother had had hardly any regular school education, she 
got quite familiar in this way with the best of Western and 
Eastern literature and even acquired a fair knowledge of the 
English and Sanskrit languages. 

Cousin Balendra was also a favourite of Father’s. Observing 
his artistic and literary tendencies. Father took him under his 
care and started to train him from an early age. To give them 
opportunities to develop their talents, Balendra and Sudhindra, 
another cousin with a literary bent of mind, were encouraged 
to contribute to the juvenile magazine called Balak. This 
magazine was short-lived, but, during the two years of its 



DISCONNECTED MEMORIES 


11 


existence, it certainly set a high standard of production. It is 
still considered not only a pioneer in juvenile journalism but 
unique in its kind. Later on both of these cousins were 
made to complete their apprenticeship by taking part in the 
editing of the Sadhana, a high-class literary journal founded by 
Father, and also by contributing to 1 3 karat i, started by my eldest 
uncle Dwijendranath. 

I remember how Baludada — that is how I called Balendra- 
nath — would bring the essays which he had been enjoined to 
write and wait for Father’s verdict on them. More often than 
not Father would ask him to rewrite them explaining to him 
how the subject-matter should be treated. When this had been 
done. Father would begin making corrections after discussing 
with him the construction of each sentence and the selection 
of more appropriate words wherever needed. Hardly any writing 
would be considered fit for the press until it had been rewritten 
four or five times. Baludada ungrudgingly submitted to this 
intensive and exacting course of training. As a result, he deve- 
loped a style characterized by a lucid and logical treatment of 
the subject expressed in chaste diction. In his essays not a 
single sentence is redundant — not a single word can be replaced 
by a happier substitute. Baludada died young — one of the first 
victims in Bengal of Hindu-Moslem communal tension — while 
trying to defend his mother when the carriage in which they 
were driving was attacked. His death was due to the after-effects 
of a wound he received in the head. He left only one or two 
books of poems and a volume of prose, but they have a distinc- 
tive place in Bengali literature. 

There is a flat terrace on the roof of the first floor of our 
house ; it is so large that twoi tennis courts could easily be 
accommodated on it. This roof functioned as the social centre 
for the family. It provided a playground for the youngsters 
whose boisterous mirth could be heard there all day long. The 
elders, especially the women, would gather there towards the 
evening and sit upon a carpet made comfortable with bolsters 
on the central portion of the roof which was raised like a 
platform. In those days tea-drinking had not come into vogue, 
but my mother, who acted as the hostess, had various sweets 
and cold drinks to serve. The men would drop in later when 
it grew dark and the oil lamps had been lit. It would then 



12 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


start getting interesting. Invariably there would be music. Our 
house was never without it ; at all hours could be heard sing- 
ing in some part or other of the house. Not only were most 
members of the family accomplished singers with fine voices, 
but music was their life and soul. No more congenial atmos- 
phere for music could be imagined than this open-air drawing- 
room where in summer the gentle south breeze brought 
comfort to the body and the moonlight made everything seem 
unearthly. Songs of love, songs devotional and those of grief 
and sorrow would be sung. There was no lack of good voices, 
but the one which my father specially cared to hear was my 
cousin Abhi’s. She sang with the abandon and spontaneity of 
a bird intoxicated by the warmth of spring. She died very young 
and her sweet ringing voice never brought cheer to the house 
any more. 

Father had discovered outside the family a remarkable voice 
in a sister of Chittaranjan Das. My mother made her come 
and stay with us. She was adopted as a member of the family 
and we called her Amaladidi. During the years she was with 
us Father used to compose tunes that would specially suit her 
voice. Whenever these songs, such songs as 

Chira-sakha he chhero na... 

My friend ever, my life-long friend 
leave not me alone 
You are the only friend to lean upon 
in the fearsome wilderness of the world. 

Or, Eki akulata bhuvane.,. 

What a yearning all the world-over, 

what restless stirring in the wind. 

which were composed in the nineties, are sung nowadays my 
mind flashes back to those evenings on the roof and the strik- 
ing figure of Amaladidi singing in her unfaltering soprano voice. 
She was not handsome, and her generously built body, of a 
height quite unusual in this country, gave her a commanding 
appearance. But as 90 on as one heard her sweet voice one for- 
got about her rather manly appearance. 



ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


13 


Anniversary of Brahmo Samaj 

My grandfather celebrated the anniversary of the Brahmo Samaj 
in a grand manner. Preparations for the celebration that took 
place on the 11th Magh (about the 24th January) took several 
weeks. The house would be in a turmoil. Every talent in the 
family had to make some contribution to the programme. My 
father would compose the songs to be sung on the occasion. 
New songs were written and set to music every year. Rehearsals 
would then begin. My cousin Nitindranath had charge of the 
decorations as long as he lived. The whole of the outer qua- 
drangle had to be repaired, repainted and decorated — but 
special attention was given to the courtyard in which the meet- 
ing assembled. Each year my cousin invented a new style of 
decoration. On one occasion he wanted the pillars to look like 
moss-covered trunks of trees. But since moss could not be had 
in a place like Calcutta he sent fishermen to drag some ponds 
and bring in cartloads of the green slimy stuff so common in 
the stagnant pools in Bengal. With the help of this and water 
lilies he did indeed make the courtyard look very gay. He was 
so pleased with the effect that he sent for his artist cousin 
Abanindra. There existed a sort of rivalry between the two. 
And Nitindra wanted Abanindra to admit that his much- vaunted 
novel scheme of decoration was after all a success. When 
Abanindra came he nodded his head in approval but hastily 
went back home holding his nose. In his enthusiasm Nitindra- 
nath had not realized that the place stank of rotten fish. Nitin- 
dranath felt crestfallen but, undaunted, he got my grandfather 
to pay for gallons of lavender and eau-de-cologne to drown the 
evil smell before the guests arrived. 

This anniversary of the Brahmo Samaj, known as Maghotsava 
(because it comes in the month of Magh), was a social event 
to which the people of Calcutta looked forward with eagerness. 
Not only was the music, songs sung by a choir chosen with 
meticulous care, exceptionally good but the solemn chanting 
of the Vedic mantras and the sermon that followed were 
listened to with deep reverence. In the early days the Maharshi 
himself sat on the Vedi and gave the sermon. Later on it was 
invariably either Satyendranath or my father who delivered it. 

As children we were more interested in the flowers, the 



14 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


candle lights of the numerous chandeliers that lit the hall and 
the corridors and above all the remnants of the feast. Very often 
we would have our own celebration the next day before the 
decorations and lights were taken down. 


Kham-Kheyali Sabha 

One of the lasting impressions of these early years was that 
of the Kham-Kheyali Sabha. Father and Cousin Balendranath 
were the moving spirits behind this queer and informal club. 
There was no constitution or any membership fixed by rules. 
Friends who fell in with the idea would invite the others by 
rotation to a dinner party. The number perhaps never exceeded 
twenty, but every kind of talent was represented — there were 
poets, writers, actors, musicians and others. The dinners were 
elaborate without any attempt at ostentation. The hosts made 
it a point to cater for the taste of the artist rather than for 
that of the gourmand. Therefore each of the dinner parties 
would have unique features which appealed not only to the 
palate but to the eye as well. I remember the occasion when 
Father had invited the club. The dinner was served on low 
tables around a raised platform on which one of my artist 
cousins had featured a vivid representation of the landscape 
and life of a Bengal village. Craftsmen from Krishnanagar had 
been requisitioned to erect miniature thatched cottages and to 
model types of Bengali men and women. Food was served on 
white marble plates and dishes ordered from Jaipur. The in- 
genuity and skill of my mother was taxed to its limit to invent 
novel preparations of food. Father’s imagination would run riot 
on these occasions and he would suggest all sorts of strange 
dishes which had never been attempted before, and Mother had 
to rack her brains to achieve the impossible and yet make 
them into culinary successes. But the food was not the only 
enjoyable part of the programme. After dinner when the guests 
had comfortably seated themselves in the drawing-room, the 
real feast would begin with abundance of music and readings 
from poetry or short stories. One-act plays were often perfor- 
med. But apart from such entertainments, what was most en- 
joyable was the brilliant and witty conversation that took place. 



kham-kheyali sabha 15 

That is an art which has almost disappeared in the world of 
of today. 

When Father sang such songs as 


Aji mama mana chahd^» 

I long for my life-long friend today, 
for that constant companion of mine 
who remains by my side day and night 
in joy and in sorrow, in life and also in death. 

Abanindra with his esraj and Maharaja Jagadindranath of 
Natore with the pakhoaj would accompany him. Father’s 
voice was at its best during this period, and it was a treat to 
hear him sing. Those familiar with his later compositions which 
are essentially of a folk-music character would hardly realise 
how wonderful it was to hear him sing the Dhrupad in the 
classical rag setting accompanied by the pakhoaj. And how 
well and with what understanding the Maharaja played ! Father 
would sometimes put the Maharaja to the severest test by ask- 
ing him to play the pakhoaj while he recited poems from Sonar 
Tori or from Manasi . * 

Everyone had his own favourite songs, however, and Father 
would be requested to sing them again and again. Sir Jagadish 
Bose would never tire of listening to 


Esho esho phire esho... 

Come back, come back my beloved, 

Come back to this craving heart 
athirst and afire with longing. 

Father was writing the short stories of the Galpaguchchha 
series at this time. He would go off to Shelidah or to Potisar 
for a few days and bring back with him a story. The Kham- 
Kheyali group would eagerly wait to hear the latest he had 
written. I think the witty plays Bini Paisdr Bhoj and Baikuniher 
Khdta were written specially for the Kham-Kheyali Sabha. 
The latter was performed one evening at Gaganendranath’s 
house with Father as Abinash* Gaganendra as Baikuntha, 
Samarendra as Kedar, Abanindra as Tincowrie and Chota 
Akshoy Babu as the old servant Ishan. It was rollicking fun 
with just that touch of pathos to relieve the humour and give 



16 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


it a more abiding substance. Such a combination of consum- 
mate actors happened only once again when Dak Ghar ( The 
Post Office) was staged many years later at the Vichitra Club. 

I can write about such details regarding the life and activities 
of grown-up people because, as I have mentioned before, I 
was of a timid and retiring nature and therefore did not seek 
companionship with children of my own age. I preferred to be 
with my elders and especially tagged along after cousins 
Balendra and Nitindra. They treated me as their particular 
pet and would take me wherever they went. Thus I grew bold 
and used to stay with them even when the elders discussed 
matters far beyond my understanding. The meetings of the 
Kham-Kheyali Club greatly attracted me. I would sneak into 
a corner of the room and make myself as inconspicuous as 
possible. It was in this way that my education started at a very 
early age, and love and respect for the higher things in art and 
literature were inculcated in me quite unconsciously. 

Besides members of our family, the persons whom I used 
to see often at the Club were Jagadish Bose, the Maharaja of 
Natore, Akshoy Kumar Choudhury, Chota Akshoy Babu, 
Priyanath Sen, Chittaranjan Das, Pramathanath Roy Chaudhuri 
of Santosh, Pramatha Chaudhuri (who afterwards wrote under 
the pseudonym ‘Birbal’), and some others whom I did not know 
at the time. Later on Atul Prasad Sen was introduced. His in- 
experienced youth and innocent appearance tempted the others 
to play practical jokes on him from the very first day. At that 
time he had no other accomplishment than that of being a 
briefless barrister. D. L. Roy frequently entertained the party 
with humorous songs sung in his inimitable style. The Kham- 
Kheyali Sabha came to an abrupt end when Father left Calcutta 
and went to live at Shelidah with his family. 


Bengal Provincial Conference 

It was while we were still children and living at the Jorasanko 
house that there occurred the great earthquake of 1897. The 
panic created in Calcutta was bad enough since an earthquake 
of such intensity had not occurred within living memory, but 
It was worse in our house as all the men happened to be absent 



BENGAL PROVINCIAL CONFERENCE 


17 


on that day. The Bengal Provincial Conference was being held 
at Natore that year. The Maharaja, who was the host, being a 
particular friend of the family, had invited everybody and they 
had gone there. Our quarters on the second floor were badly 
damaged and we took shelter on the ground floor. For days 
there was no news from Natore as all communications had been 
cut off. My mother had been injured, and to this was added her 
anxiety for Father and others. At last when after a week they 
returned, they brought harrowing tales of their experiences at 
Natore, where the earth-tremors must have been very much 
worse than at Calcutta. 

Long afterwards I heard from Father what happened at the 
Conference. There is one story worth repeating. In those days 
all the meetings of the Congress were conducted in English. 
Almost all those who led the national movement had been 
educated in England and had exceptional mastery over the 
English language. Such men as W. C. Bonnerjee, Pherozeshah 
Mehta, G. K. Gokhale, Surendranath Banerjea, Rashbehari 
Ghose, Lalmohan Ghose, Anandamohan Bose were first-rate 
-orators and their speeches in English were greatly admired. 
Father did not mind the speeches being given in English in the 
sessions of the Congress, but he wanted that at least in the 
Provincial Conferences the language used should be that of the 
province. Father, my uncle Satyendranath, the Maharaja of 
Natore and a few others had formed a group to move a 
resolution to this effect at the Natore Conference. There was 
stiff opposition from the leaders. Not one of them could make 
a speech in Bengali. Tn the end a compromise was effected 
when Father offered to give a running translation in Bengali of 
all the speeches made. On the opening day of the conference 
Father actually did this. It was a remarkable and most difficult 
performance. Before the meeting broke up — the conference 
could not meet again owing to the earthquake — W. C. 
Bonnerjee twitted Father by saying, ‘Rabi Babu, your Bengali 
was wonderful, but do you think that your chashas and bhushas 
(meaning peasants and the common people) understood your 
mellifluous language better than our English ?’ 



18 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Congress Session 1896 

I have a very vague recollection of the session of the Congress 
held in Calcutta in the year 1896. In those days the city did 
not have many parks where such public functions could be 
held. The sanctity of the Maidan and the Eden Gardens was 
jealously guarded by the Government against any pollution from 
political demonstrations by the people of the country. So 
Beadon Square, which is close to our Jorasanko residence, 
was selected as the venue of the Congress. Nowadays the 
selection of such a site would be unthinkable — ■ there are so 
many other more suitable places in elegant localities — but the 
Chitpur Road and Beadon Street crossing where the Congress 
was to be held had not yet fallen into disrepute. 

Naturally there was great excitement in our house while 
preparations went on for the great event. Father took charge 
of the programme for music with Saraladidi to help him. For 
many years, as long as he kept contact with the public life of 
Calcutta, people depended on Father to arrange the music on 
all big occasions. Father chose Bankim Chandra’s Vande 
Mataram as the opening song. He set music to the words of 
the poem and sang it himself, accompanied on the organ by 
Saraladidi. Father’s voice had such carrying capacity that it 
could be heard from the farthest comer of the huge assembly 
and held the audience under a spell. Such an achievement must 
seem strange and impossible in these days of ‘mikes’ and loud 
speakers which have brought about a gradual deterioration in 
the volume of the voice. This undoubtedly was the first occasion 
when Vande Mataram was sung at a public gathering. The 
effect was so overpowering that the song immediately became 
recognized as the national song. I believe at no subsequent 
meeting of the Congress has Vande Mataram been left out.. 
The slogan came into use at a much later date. 



At Shelidah 


Shelidah lies on the northernmost border of Nadia, being 
separated from Pabna by the river Padma, which forms the 
natural boundary between the two districts. But after reaching 
the alluvial plains of Bengal, the Padma is no longer the dainty 
and well-mannered river that flows by the sacred cities of 
Allahabad and Banaras. It has gathered volume during its long 
journey and changed into a seething mass of muddy water, 
vast in extent and unruly in character. In spite of its size it 
has acquired a capricious nature, playing hide-and-seek with 
the innumerable villages along its banks. Just when some of 
those villages begin to feel secure and happy on receiving her 
caresses, she wantonly abandons them to distribute her favours 
on others miles away. 

In those days Shelidah was snugly ensconced between the 
Padma and the Gorai, and this advantageous position gave the 
place for many years an added importance as a river-port. 
Boats of all descriptions called there to unload or replenish 
their cargo of paddy, jute, oilseeds, jaggery, and what not, the 
produce of the richest area in Bengal. Clumsy and heavy cargo- 
boats from Bihar would be seen there as well as the lightly-built 
and finely proportioned panshies from Dacca. But that which 
gave the most active interest to the river-life, was the fleet of 
fishing-boats that kept busy day and night catching hilsa, and 
transporting the catch to Calcutta from Kushtia, the nearest 
railway station. 

At Shelidah we lived an entirely different life away from all 
contact with society and completely confined to ourselves. 
The change was in a way beneficial. Our family had grown, 
and we five children had better opportunities of getting to 



20 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


know our parents intimately and living in closer contact with 
nature. My father became greatly concerned about our educa- 
tion. He knew very well the evil effects of the stereotyped 
school-teaching prevalent in our country, his own experience 
in a Normal School in Calcutta having left a bitter impression 
on his mind. It may be mentioned in passing that his first 
criticism of the prevalent system of education appeared in his 
article contributed to Sadhana as early as 1892. Sikshar Herpher 
( The Tortuosities of Education ), as this essay was named, 
was a vigorous and reasoned plea for acceptance of the mother- 
tongue as the medium of instruction. It aroused considerable 
interest amongst educationists including Sir Gooroodas Banerjee, 
the first Indian Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. 
Father was anxious that his own children should be spared such 
unhealthy and stifling influences, so he engaged teachers who 
lived with us. But the teachers had to be taught first. Father 
began to devise his own methods and to train the teachers to 
learn and follow them. Very often he would take the classes 
himself. 

Our teacher of English was an Englishman of a rather 
interesting type. He was given a bungalow in the compound. 
There he lived with thousands of silk-worms in which he had 
become interested through Akshoy Kumar Maitra, the historian. 
On Sundays, discarding all clothes, Mr. Lawrence would wrap 
himself in old newspapers and lie amongst the caterpillars 
which delighted in crawling all over him. He was very fond of 
them and used to say they were his children. 

We had lessons in English, Mathematics and Sanskrit from 
the teachers. Father would not leave Bengali to them, but 
taught it himself. At the time he was writing the poems of 
Katha-o-Kdhini. He would take up one of the poems or some 
selected prose paragraph and explain it in great detail to my 
sister Bela and myself, paraphrasing and analyzing every sen- 
tence. For me, who had then a rather elementary knowledge 
of the language, these pieces would be quite difficult. But 
Father did not care in the least. He never used any of the 
usual graded readers such as are used in the schools. He liked 
to start us at once on good literature. He did not like to make 
children feel that because they were immature they must 
read only that kind of silly stuff written specially for children 



AT SHELIDAH 


21 


by people who had little conception of their mental aptitude 
or capacity. He took such great pains to explain every word, 
repeating it several times, that by the end of the lesson the 
whole thing would be vividly impressed on our minds. It would 
then be easy to memorize the piece. In this way in a short 
time we could recite whole books of poems and descriptive 
pieces of prose from well-known writers. Grammar we never 
learnt — nor was it necessary. In English he would sometimes 
assign us passages from Amiel’s Journal , one of his favourite 
books; in Sanskrit, the selections from the Upanishads con- 
tained in Brahmo Dharma. Some years later, he made me 
memorize the whole of the Dhammapada in Pali. 

Father was very keen that we children should know the Indian 
classics well, especially the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata . 
In the old days children had their education in literature, 
social and moral ethics, and even philosophy and religion from 
a very early age through hearing stories told them by their 
grandmothers. Now they have to go to school as soon as they 
can walk and grandmothers are no longer well versed in the 
folk-lore and mythology of ancient India. The printed editions 
of the Ramayana and Mahabharata are so bulky and contain 
such a mass of irrelevant matter that they are of no use to 
children. Even grown-ups find it difficult to wade through the 
volumes. Father set my mother to prepare an abridged version 
of the Ramayana , keeping to the original but leaving out 
all superfluous and irrelevant matter so that the main story 
could be read at a stretch. Father insisted that she should 
consult the original Sanskrit and not depend upon Bengali 
translations for preparing her text. This was difficult for 
Mother, but undaunted she read the Ramayana with the help 
of a Pandit, and only then did she start writing, but unfor- 
tunately the book was not finished before she died and the 
MS. of the portion she had written got lost. I remember with 
what avidity we used to read her MS. 

At the same time Father induced my cousin Surendranath 
to prepare an abridged edition of the Mahabharata. Whenever 
he came to Shelidah he used to bring the MS. with him to 
consult Father. My sister Bela and I would not let him go 
until he had read to us all that he had written since his last 
visit. After Surendada had finished writing. Father took the 



22 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


MS. with him to Santiniketan and entertained the pupils of the 
school there by reading out to them the story of the Mahabha- 
rata every evening. I was then (in 1903) preparing for the 
Matric (then called the Entrance) examination. Father sat with 
the boys in the verandah of the library, while my friend 
Santosh and I were closeted with our Sanskrit tutor, Haricharan 
Banerji, in a room in the same building vainly trying to un- 
derstand difficult passages of Bhartrihari. Realizing that our 
whole attention was elsewhere, Hari-babu complained to Father 
that it was useless to expect the two boys t q pass their exa- 
mination as long as the reading of the Mahabharata went 
on. Father smiled and said, ‘If you will allow them to attend 
my class they will know their Mahabharata well at least.’ 
From that day there was no more cramming in the evenings 
and much to the surprise of our teachers we managed to pass 
the examination. The first edition of Surendada’s Mahabharata 
contained the whole of what he had condensed from the text 
of Kaliprasanna Sinha. Considering it too bulky. Father pub- 
lished a still further abridged edition under the name of Kuru - 
Pandava. 

Whilst Father looked after our academic education. Mother 
had her own way of giving us training in the practical affairs of 
life. Every Sunday she gave leave to the servants. My sister 
and I were directed by her to do all the household duties. 
My younger sisters were too young to take part in the work. 
It was great fun ; what interested me was the cooking. Is it 
not incumbent on the cook to taste each dish as soon as 
prepared ? A giant of a Sikh turned up one day and asked for 
employment. He was appointed durwan or gatekeeper. A 
few days later, he came to Mother and complained that he 
was not getting enough to eat. Mother asked him what he 
would like to eat. He wanted only some chapatis with dal and 
dahi, he meekly replied, and then added in an even meeker 
voice, ‘May I have them in sufficient quantities ?’ We were 
told to get these ready and see how much would satisfy him. 
Heaps of chapatis were prepared and several pots of dahi. 
Mother watched as the man started gulping down whatever 
was served him. He must have consumed half a maund of 
food before he stopped. Next day Mother asked my Father to 
give the durwan a rise in his pay. 



ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


23 


Visitors at Shelidah 

During our stay at Shelidah we used to have visitors quite 
frequently. Dwijendralal Roy — better known as D. L. Roy — 
was magistrate at Kushtia, our Sub-divisional headquarters. 
Whenever he could get away from his official work he would 
come to our place. I happen to remember an amusing incident 
in connection with one of his visits. Perhaps few persons know 
that D. L. Roy — the poet and dramatist — began his career as 
a trained agriculturist. In a spurt of enthusiasm the Govern- 
ment sent four students to Cirencester College in England to 
study the science of agriculture. D. L. Roy was one of the four. 
When the four scholars returned with their specialized know- 
ledge, the Government did not know what to do with them 
as a department for agriculture had yet to be organized. Some 
official high up in the ranks had a brain-wave, and all four of 
them were appointed Deputy Magistrates. When D. L. Roy 
used to visit us at Shelidah, years of administrative drudgery 
must have made his knowledge of agriculture somewhat rusty. 
But seeing that Father was laying out an extensive garden he 
became enthusiastic and suggested the planting of potatoes 
in a plot. At that time the cultivation of potatoes was almost 
unknown in Bengal. Father had a plot made ready and 
waited for instructions. These came in due course along with 
some seeds. The directions were meticulously followed, 
ignoring the protests of the gardener, an experienced farmer. 
The harvest however was no more than the weight of the seeds 
planted. Father was careful never again to seek agricultural 
advice from his friend. He would rather hear him sing and 
recite poems. 

Jagadish Chandra Bose used to pay regular visits, specially 
in the winter, when we moved from the house to live in house- 
boats on the river. During the dry season the Padma shrinks 
to a comparatively narrow stream, and wide sand-banks are 
formed stretching for miles and miles. The sand is very clean 
and dazzlingly white. Wandering over the undulating dunes 
one would suddenly be agreeably surprised to find a crystal 
clear lake or a meandering offshoot of the river inhabited by 
thousands of wild duck, or a coppice of stunted casuarinas — 
the favourite haunt of wild boars and jackals. A lonely spot 



24 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


on one of these sand-banks would be chosen, and a fleet of 
house-boats, country-boats, green-boats — a collection of all sorts 
of river craft would take us over there. On the bank would 
be erected a cluster of bamboo huts to accommodate the 
retinue of servants and, what we children used to like most, 
the temporary bath-house jutting right out into the river. Here 
we would camp for the dry months of the winter until the 
beginning of the summer, when the heat and the fury of the 
nor’westers would drive us back home. 

Jagadish Chandra Bose loved to spend the week-ends with 
us on the river. He had travelled far and wide, but he used to 
say that no health or pleasure resort in the world could rival 
the chars of the Padma. He taught me how to trace the foot- 
prints of the turtles and discover the eggs that were carefully 
hidden under the sand. T had to bring him a bagful of eggs 
every day for his breakfast. He would be more delighted still 
when a live turtle was caught, for he relished the tender meat. 
These creatures take great pains to hide their eggs from the 
jackals but what they cannot efface are their own foot-prints 
which show clearly on the smooth sands. It was very interest- 
ing for me to follow the trail of parallel prints running like 
railway-lines, and not to be confused at the crossing where other 
mother turtles had fouled the track. Sometimes I would sur- 
prise one of these slow-moving animals quite helpless on the 
dry land far from the river. It was a simple thing to capture 
it. One had only to turn it on its back. Jagadish Chandra Bose 
had another hobby : he would make all of us dig pits in the 
sand and with wet towels round our heads lie down in them 
to sun-bathe, and then when the roasting process had gone far 
enough jump into the cool water for a change. 

Jagadish Chandra Bose had a wonderful fund of interesting 
stories, some very amusing, of the many lands he had visited 
and personalities he had met. He could go on telling them for 
hours and days together, yet one would never get tired of listen- 
ing to him for he could always make the most trivial facts 
interesting, and his humour was so refreshing. He could also 
laugh ; so few people can laugh well and at the proper time 
and place. I would greatly miss him when he went away and 
secretly I would take a vow to become a scientist like him when 
I grew up. 



VISITORS AT SHELIDAH 


25 


Jagadish Chandra was at this time making experiments to 
compare the reactions on the Living and Non-living to different 
kinds of stimuli. He believed the results he had obtained with 
the help of the delicate instruments he had invented would 
revolutionize the current conceptions held by scientists regard- 
ing the nature of life. He had received great encouragement 
from Sister Nivedita in pursuing this line of research. Father 
was also much interested. When Jagadish was satisfied that he 
had obtained sufficient convincing data to acquaint the scienti- 
fic world of his discoveries he wanted to go to England to give 
actual demonstrations of his experiments to scientists in order 
to convince them of the truth of his deductions. Father 
approached the Maharaja of Tripura and was able to get from 
him sufficient money not only to enable Jagadish to go abroad 
bu-: to fit up his laboratory with the equipment that he badly 
needed. 

The attachment of the scientist and the poet was much more 
than just friendship. They would constantly exchange ideas. 
One would talk of the next story to be written and the other 
of the remarkable results obtained from experiments carried 
on in his laboratory. They would not only appreciate each 
other’s criticisms but derive inspiration from their discussions. 
Every week-end that Jagadish came to Shelidah he would 
make Father read out to him the short story that he had written 
the previous week and get a promise from him to have another 
ready the next week-end. It was not only the necessity of filling 
the pages of Sadhana or Bhdrati but this constant demand from 
his friend that made Father write so many short stories at this 
period. Quite often he would not have sufficient time to finish 
a story. Some of the stories in the Gcdpaguchchha bear evidence 
of having been hurriedly written. 

Besides Jagadish Bose and Dwijendralal Roy, Father had 
other occasional guests. The historian Akshoy Kumar Maitra 
was one of them. He was a lawyer in Rajshahi — but his chief 
interest was historical research, especially that of Bengal. He 
had collected a number of images and other relics of ancient 
times that helped to throw much light on the history of the 
province. This collection formed the nucleus of the Museum of 
the Varendra Anusandhan Samiti founded by him later on. 
But the claims of his profession and his scholarship were 



26 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


overshadowed by his enthusiasm for a peculiar hobby — that 
of silk-worm rearing. Whenever he came to Shelidah he would 
bring some silk-worm eggs and give lessons on how to rear 
the insects and produce silk yarn. Mr. Lawrence, who was 
initiated in this hobby by him, produced such a huge quantity 
of silk by the end of the year that Maitra was glad to acknow- 
ledge him a worthy pupil. Akshoy Maitra could talk on many 
subjects with authority but without pedantry and Father there- 
fore enjoyed the days of his stay spent in pleasant discussions 
on many subjects of mutual interest. 

Whenever Amaladidi was with us Father’s passion for music 
would be roused. The whole day he would be humming tunes 
and Amaladidi would sit with him to pick up the music of the 
newly composed songs. Our Indian tradition has always been 
to learn music by ear and not by reading notations. We others 
would wait expectantly for the evening. After a hurried dinner 
the whole family would tumble into an open boat and, rowing 
out into the middle of the river, keep it anchored there. Amala- 
didi and Father would take turns and song after song would 
float across the water uninterruptedly until midnight. I would, 
of course, often be lulled to sleep on my mother’s lap long 
before the party broke up. The river would be deserted and 
there would be nothing to disturb the stillness of the night 
except the gurgling of the eddies as they rushed past the boat. 
The moon would shine like silver over patches of water ruffled 
by the wind and occasionally belated fishing boats would be 
silhouetted against the light as they glided down on the current. 
Such songs as 

Bela gelo tomar patha cheyi 1 
Or 

Sandhyara me gh a maid 2 

still remind me of those nights when the haunting tunes of the 
songs would blend with the rippling of the water, the rustling 
of the soft breeze, the rhythmic splashing of the oars of passing 
boats and the moonlight flooding the expanse of the river and 
its banks with an ethereal beauty. A more romantic setting for 
music cannot be imagined. 

1 My day passes awaiting Thee 

2 Thou wreath of evening clouds 



father’s literary output 


27 


With the arrival of Maharaja Jagadindranath of Natore our 
rustic camp on the sands of the river-bank took on a lively 
appearance. His talent as a writer and musician is well-known. 
But what we liked about him most was his genial personality, 
his fund of humour and delicate appreciation of others what- 
ever they might be worth. While Father would be entertaining 
the Maharaja, Mother with the help of Amaladidi, who was an 
expert in the cooking of East Bengal delicacies, would be busy 
preparing the meals. Father knew that the Maharaja was a 
connoisseur in the matter of food and she was determined to 
satisfy his palate. I believe Natore enjoyed his week-ends at 
Shelidah just as much as we enjoyed his company. 


Father s Literary Output 

Father’s output of writing was perhaps at its maximum during 
the years at Shelidah. He composed poems and songs, wrote 
short stories, essays and lectures — working hard all day long 
and sometimes till late into the night. When he worked hardest 
he ate very little. While Mother would get annoyed over this, 
she knew very well that nothing could dissuade him, once he 
had made up his mind. My cousin, Sarala Devi, was then 
editing the literary journal Bharati. This journal had been 
started by my eldest uncle, Dwijendranath, and the editorship 
had remained confined to the members of the family. Father 
had also served his term at one period. Saraladidi had asked 
father to write a short drama for the journal. He had been 
putting it off, not feeling in the mood to write a drama. Know- 
ing him as she did, Saraladidi advertised that the first instal- 
ment of a light drama by the Poet Rabindranath would 
be published in the next issue of Bharati. After a few days 
she wrote to Father informing him that she had to do this in 
order to stimulate the flagging interest of the public in the 
journal, and begged him not to let her down. Father was 
furious at first ; but the next day he told Mother not to disturb 
him for meals, but to send him occasionally glasses of liquid 
refreshment, as he would be busy writing. He shut himself up 
for three days in his room, and wrote without break on a fast- 
ing diet. By the end of the third day he had finished that witty 
drama Chirakumar Sabha (Bachelors’ Club). Not trusting the 



28 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


MS. to the post he himself hurried off to Calcutta with it. 
Mother knew, however, that it was not the urgency of handing 
it over to the journal in time for publication that made him 
depart so suddenly. As soon as he had finished a piece of 
writing. Father always got restless until he had an opportunity 
of reading it to a few friends. None of his literary friends was 
at Shelidah at the time, so off he must go to Calcutta. He was 
in such a weak condition after the fasting and the strain of 
writing that he fainted going up the stairs in the Jorasanko 
house. That gave Mother an excuse to make him go back to 
normal diet. 


His Managerial Work 

In spite of the heavy literary work Father did not neglect his 
managerial duties. Every morning he would go through the 
accounts, hear reports from the staff, and dispose of important 
correspondence. But the most interesting function for him 
was to meet the tenants, hear their complaints and settle 
disputes. He did not treat them in the traditional manner. He 
talked with them freely and they too felt so much at ease with 
him that they would tell him about their land, their families, 
and their personal affairs. Father had made known that any 
tenant who wanted to see him could go straight to him ; 
no officer was to interfere with this inherent right of the tenant. 
Thus was established a bond of love and respect between the 
landlord and the tenants, a tradition that lasted in our estates 
till the end. 

In the office he was a hard taskmaster. The officers knew 
that no negligence in their duties would escape his notice — 
nor would he be satisfied with their notes and recommendations. 
He read through every file, mastered all the details of the case 
and gave his own judgment or passed orders independently. 
The Government after some time came to recognize that no 
injustice would be done in our estates, and allowed liberties 
that were not enjoyed by other zamindars. Father told the 
tenants not to go to any of the courts. They had their panchayats t 
who would settle all disputes and even criminal cases. If they 
were not satisfied there, the five pradhdns for the whole pergand 
would hear their appeal. The landlord himself constituted the 



A BUSINESS VENTURE 


29 


final court of appeal. This system prevailed for many years 
and not a single tenant ever filed a suit in the magisterial or 
munsiff courts nor did the Government ever object to the legal 
powers assumed by us. Tn one of the estates a complete system 
of self-government was introduced by Father, and it worked 
wonderfullv well. Was not the Maharshi right in putting his 
youngest son in charge of the estates, even if he was a poet 
and a visionary ? 

In looking after the estates. Father had constantly to tour 
through many districts of rural Bengal since our properties were 
spread over Nadia, Pabna, Faridpur, Rajshahi, Bogra and 
even Cuttack in Orissa. Ffe particularly enjoyed travelling in 
boats through the network of small rivers which wind their 
way through the heart of the province. No other way of travel- 
ling gives such opportunities of observing the life of the people. 
Bengal is full of rivers, and our people are truly fond of them. 
These rivers are like the bullock cart tracts, going as the fancy 
takes them, bending twisting and sometimes doubling on their 
tracks, they meander past the populous villages that cling to 
their banks and wander at leisure through the fields of paddy, 
jute, sugarcane, mustard and the various other crops that grow 
abundantly, bringing the silt from afar spilling it generously 
over the fields of this deltaic land. Sitting idly in. the boat one 
never gets tired of watching through the windows 'the scenes 
of domestic life that reveal themselves in endless variety. 
Groups of women with their earthen-pots poised gracefully on 
their hips coming down the ghats ; children swimming boister- 
ously, splashing water at each other ; fishermen with their 
innumerable ingenious devices engaged in trapping fish, pea- 
sants loading their harvest on to boats till the brims almost 
touch the level of the water ; a king-fisher perched motionless 
on the tip of a hanging bamboo, ready to swoop down at the 
sight of its prey — a life of toil, tranquillity and happiness 
going on for ages unchanging and unspoiled. 

A Business Venture 

The town of Kushtia, the nearest railway station to Shelidah, 
a distance of five miles by a kutcha road and a ferry crossing 
over the river Gorai, was fast growing into a trading centre 



30 


ON THE EDGFS OF TIME 


for the northern portion of the district of Nadia. We had some 
land there which had commercial advantages, being quite 
close to the railway station as well as to the river. Cousins 
Balendra and Surendra were eager to launch into business 
and induced Father to form a private company, which was 
eventually registered as Tagore & Co. with the three as partners. 
A house and some godowns were built facing the Kushtia 
station and business started at first in the storage of grain and 
then in the baling of jute. As profits began to come in, the 
temptation to expand the business grew irresistible. Behind all 
their artistic, literary and creative faculties, there lurked in the 
Tagores a speculative tendency, perhaps an inheritance from 
Prince Dwarkanath. 

The peasants had found sugarcane a good money-crop, 
and its cultivation had extended a good deal. But there was 
the difficulty of crushing it. In Bengal this crop is not grown 
in the plantation system but in scattered plots; so that factories 
cannot be established. The primitive system of crushing was 
too uneconomic. Somebody had invented a portable machine 
with cylinders driven by bullocks. An Englishman named 
Renwick had many of these machines made and established 
a business with headquarters at Kushtia by renting these 
machines out to the cultivators for the season. Tagore & Co. 
took up this business also. Keen was the competition for some 
years. The business would probably have flourished but for 
the dishonesty of the manager. As a result, when the company 
of the Tagores was wound up, Father found himself heavily 
in debt as he took the entire liability on his own shoulders. 
Thus ended father’s one and only adventure in business. 


A Dramatic Episode 

One of the visits to Shelidah during my boyhood has left a 
lasting impression on my mind through its association with a 
dramatic episode which took place while we were spending a 
fortnight in a house-boat on the river Gorai. 

It was the month of October, somewhere in the nineties, when 
I was barely nine years of age. Father had taken me with him 
on the boat, and although it was too early in the season, we 
were cruising about looking for a suitable dry sand-bank. Father 



A DRAMATIC EPISODE 


31 


was then editing the Bengali monthly Sadhana, the major por- 
tion of which he had to fill with his own writings. Almost every 
issue carried a story. These were later on published in collected 
form as Galpaguchchha. Most of these stories contain vivid 
and intimate descriptions of the day-to-day life of the common 
people living in the villages of Bengal. And among such villages 
Shelidah holds a distinctive place, because it was here that father 
came into close contact with the children of the soil and gathered 
his intimate knowledge of their joys and sorrows. 

He would spend the whole day in the front cabin writing. 
My time would be spent just as quietly in the adjoining cabin, 
gazing with fascinated eyes at the ever-changing life on the 
river. After sunset Father would take me up on deck and enter- 
tain me as best as he could. One evening as we were sitting on 
chairs placed close to the railing. Father’s slippers fell into the 
water. They were well-worn and should have been discarded 
long ago. Without a moment’s hesitation he dived into the river 
and swam after them, fighting with the swift currents. The rest 
of the evening was happily spent with the pair of salvaged 
slippers, now rendered quite useless, drying in front of him. 

But we were not destined to enjoy this idyllic life for long. 
Without warning the clouds darkened the sky one morning and 
a cyclone began to blow. Our boat had to take refuge in a 
sort of bay, formed, as so often, by indentations of the banks 
and known to the fishermen as dah. Into this dah , where neither 
the current nor the waves could enter through its narrow bottle 
neck, had crowded hundreds of river-craft. The storm raged for 
three days. From our safe refuge we were the helpless witnesses 
of the cruel devastation that took place on the river and in 
villages on its banks. Wreckage of every description — sinking 
boats, uprooted trees, roofs of houses — were swept along the 
current in an unending procession. 

On the afternoon of the third day, when the storm had some- 
what abated but the waves on the river were still running high, 
we went up on the top deck to stretch our limbs and get a 
good view of the weird scene. Suddenly Father cried out that 
there was a body floating down the middle of the river. Looking 
carefully where he pointed, one could see nothing but a mass 
of dark hair in the water, rising and falling with the move- 
ment of the waves. 



32 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Father immediately ordered the men to take the life-boat to 
the drowning person— undoubtedly a woman. The boatmen 
said it would be foolhardy to venture out in such a storm. 
Father got annoyed and jumped into the life-boat himself. Still 
they tarried, until our old Mahommedan cook roundly abused 
them for being cowards and rushed to help father. Thoroughly 
ashamed of themselves, they now followed him into the boat 
and tried to redeem their cowardly conduct by compelling 
Father to remain behind while they sallied forth. It was thrill- 
ing to watch the frail little boat being rowed across the bois- 
terous waves, the men pulling heftily for all they were worth, 
led. by the encouraging gesticulations of the cook, who had 
assumed command. 

In the meantime the body had been carried a long distance, 
and it was quite dark when the rescue-party returned with the 
woman. The cook told Father that when the boat came along- 
side and one of the men catching hold of her tried to drag 
her in— the woman repeatedly beseeched them to let go. She 
was far from drowning ; being an expert swimmer she found it 
difficult to get rid of herself that way. She would not give her 
name. But Father soon discovered that she was the wife of one 
of our tenants— a handsome woman with little reason to be 
tired of her young life. 

The husband was sent for, and after Father had spoken to 
him, not only did he take his wife home but— so goes the 
story— never again did he give her cause to feel unhappy. 




The Boat Padma 

Father loved the river Padma, as most of his readers know 
from the poems he has written in praise of its grandeur and 
beauty. It is no wonder that he named his favourite house-boat 
after this river. Although it was he who first gave it a name, 
the house-boat could claim an older association with our family. 
It was most certainly built by Prince Dwarkanath and remained 
moored on the banks of the Hooghly near Calcutta during his 
life-time and that of my grandfather, Maharshi Devendranath. 
It is more than likely that the message of the death of the 
Prince was brought by fast couriers to the Maharshi, while he 
was on a pleasure cruise in this very boat. We have also on 
record that my grandfather travelled up and down the Ganges 
in this house-boat, often as far up as Banaras, and that one of 
these trips was taken during the troublesome days of the Mutiny. 

Before the age of steam engines the rivers, rather than the 
roads, were the natural means of communication in our country, 
especially in Bengal. The well-to-do had to keep a fleet of 
river craft of all kinds for their use, of which house-boats with 
comfortably furnished cabins formed an essential part. They 
were used mainly for long-distance journeys but often also for 
pleasure trips. The boats were of peculiar construction, only 
to be found in Bengal. With a wide beam affording ample 
accommodation and flat-bottomed, they were heavy and slow 
of movement but well-suited to negotiate the shallow and un- 
certain rivers of this province. Dacca made a business of build- 
ing these boats, which are therefore commonly known as 
Daccai bajrahs. Zemindars used to take great pride in them 
and vied with each other in their construction, though today 
they have no more use for them and rarely are they to be seen 
now. 



34 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


This boat Padma was cherished by Father as one of his most 
prized possessions. During his youth, when he was completely 
absorbed in his own self and his own creative work and avoided 
society, this boat gave him the solitude that he needed. His 
work of managing the extensive Tagore estates afforded him 
greater opportunities of spending most of his time on the boat, 
travelling on inspection from one district to another, and even 
outside the province to villages in Orissa. Nothing could have 
been more congenial to him and he made good use of the boat 
until his middle age, when other interests took him away to 
entirely different surroundings. He was thereafter obliged to 
stay at Santiniketan ; the institution he had founded there 
claimed all his attention. During the first few years of his stay 
there, it was not unusual for him to leave his work suddenly 
and go off to Shelidah and the boat. His letters show what 
an amount of solace he derived from these holidays, snatched 
from a life full of worries and anxieties at Santiniketan and 
Calcutta. 

That the two phases of his life — the solitary artist and recluse 
of the youthful years, trying to probe into the depths of his 
being to find the talisman that would touch with magic and 
inspire with a meaning all his creative efforts, and the mature 
man living a life of multifarious activities, sharing his thoughts 
and work with his fellow-beings — should be associated with two 
entirely different surroundings is significant. But there is no 
doubt that his first and deepest love was for the country of 
mellow green fields with their clusters of bamboo shoots sway- 
ing gently in the south breeze and hiding villages in their midst, 
of majestic rivers with their stretches of gleaming white sand — 
the haunts of myriads of wild ducks, as well as of homely 
rivulets with sweet-sounding names, meandering in and out 
through peaceful villages hugging their banks. Such associations 
had entered deeper into his life than the parched and barren 
wastes that surrounded him at Santiniketan, the choice of his 
later years. The river Padma and its sandbanks, Shelidah and 
its fishermen and minstrels and its fields of golden yellow mus- 
tard blossoms, the house-boat with its plucky boatman,' Tapsi, 
and its grey-bearded cook, Phatik, must have haunted him in 
his old age and made him feel homesick for all that he missed 
at Santiniketan. 



THE BOAT PADMA 


35 


In spite of Mother’s misgivings Father started taking me with 
him on his frequent river journeys when I was little more than 
a boy of seven. I have therefore some knowledge of how he 
lived on the boat, when he used to retire to this favourite 
retreat of his. I have also shared with him on the river many 
an adventure and interesting experience. One such incident I 
have already described elsewhere. But now I am mainly con- 
cerned with the house-boat and its association with the literary 
life of Father. 

The headquarters of the three estates at Shelidah, Shahjadpur 
and Potisar, and the factory at Kushtia, connected as they are 
by navigable rivers, gave my father sufficient excuse to adopt 
a roving life in a boat. My earliest recollection is that of a 
visit to Kushtia. The railway station which hangs precariously 
over the steep embankment of the Gorai and its one-legged 
English stationmaster, the river with its swift current and eddies, 
the innumerable barges and dinghies huddled close to the bank — 
all seemed strange and forbidding to me. But once we stepped 
into our boat, the homelike cosy interior comforted me. After 
a frugal meal consisting mainly of hilsa fish. Father at once 
settled down to write, while I watched with the intense curiosity 
of a child the restless movements of the innumerable insects 
that kept hovering over the water and the thousand and one 
interesting sights to be observed on the riverside of a busy 
locality. The factory was inspected in due course — its workshop 
with its huge hydraulic presses for baling jute, the innumerable 
sugarcane crushers waiting for shipment to interior villages, its 
warehouses bulging with their loads of mustard and other oil 
seeds, and the hundreds of workmen sweating and shouting. 
Father looked into all the details of the business but it did 
not take him long to do it ; he had a way of easily shaking 
off the officers who came with long reports and accounts. 
Business finished, he would immediately go back to his writing 
as though the interruption mattered not at all. Only after sun- 
set would he allow himself any rest. He would then take mfc 
with him to sit on the deck. Of what he talked to me, I have, 
of course, no recollection now. But most often we would sit 
quietly and watch the fishing boats glide silently along with 
the current, silhouetted against the soft glow of the sunset 
colours until the stars came out one by one and the night 



36 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


advanced with stealthy steps enveloping everything with mys- 
tery. The venerable Phatik would then appear and break the 
silence with his stentorian voice announcing dinner — a ceaseless 
monotony of chicken cutlets and bread-pudding. My eyes would 
get heavy even before the last morsels had been gulped down 
but Father would sit till late reading or writing. He always 
carried a library of books with him. I can vaguely recollect 
treatises on ethnology, anthropology and other sciences, com- 
parative grammars of the Indo-Aryan languages, Sanskrit classics 
and books of travels, but hardly ever any light literature either 
in Bengali or English. There might have been also the latest 
books on the history of English Literature and Criticism, and 
translations from French and Russian literature. 

When he arrived at any of the estate headquarters, the 
routine would not be much altered except that the mornings 
would be given over to conference with the officers and the 
hearing of endless petitions from tenants. What with the firing 
of guns by quaintly dressed guards, and the blowing of conch- 
shells by veiled women, the arrival at any of these places was 
somewhat spectacular and reminded one of the Middle Ages. 
If the visit happened to coincide with the Punyaha day, a pro- 
cession would be formed and Father would be taken in a palan- 
quin to the office building, in front of which a shamiana would 
be put up to shelter the crowd gathered for the occasion. The 
zemindar on such occasions has to sit on a raised platform, so 
that everybody can see him. After some ceremonials, the tenants 
one by one — the elders and the headmen of the villages first and 
then the commoners — would be conducted to him, the nazarana 
(payment of the first instalment of rent, generally a token pay- 
ment only) paid, and blessings received with bowed heads. 
While this quaint ceremony was going on hurried preparations 
would be made for the feast which would follow. The tenants 
themselves made all the arrangements and saw to it that the 
precedents which social etiquette demanded were strictly 
followed. Since several thousands had to be served, the fare 
was very simple, consisting mainly of parched rice and sour 
milk. It was a pleasure to see the enjoyment they derived from 
such a feast. 

The river Padma is so broad, the currents are so dangerous, 
and the sudden storms strike it with such fury that risky ad- 



THE BOAT PABjMA 


37 


ventures are not rare with those who live on its bank. Father 
had his full share of them. He was a good swimmer. I have 
seen him swim across the Gorai with ease. He taught me how 
to swim by throwing me one day into the river from the deck 
of the boat. It was unnecessary to repeat the lesson the next 
day. Father enjoyed taking risks where others would hesitate. 
Many a time the old manager at Shelidah would come with 
folded palms beseeching him not to sail across the Padma in 
such bad weather. But once Father had made up his mind it 
was useless to try and dissuade him. When, however, it con- 
cerned the safety of others he would easily get nervous and fret. 

It is not easy for me to say which of the poems and songs 
Father had composed or the stories and essays he had written 
while living on the house-boat Padma . Perhaps some day an 
industrious student of his literature will find out and give us 
this information. It may, however, be safely conjectured that 
the major portion of his literary productions up to the begin- 
ning of the century was written on this boat. It was while 
cruising leisurely through the many rivers of Nadia, Faridpur, 
Pabna and Rajshahi, that his keen sense of observation gave 
him the deep and intimate understanding of the life and land- 
scape of rural Bengal, which permeates all his writings. 

The boat Padma served my father well. It gave him peace 
and shelter when the world harassed him. It offered him ad- 
venture when he needed it. It took him into the heart of the 
country and gave him materials for his writing. And above all 
it gave him abundant pleasure. 



A Trip to the Himalayas 


Sister Nivedita had become enthusiastic over places of 
pilgrimage in India — specially those in the remote mountains. 
Those who have read her book. The Web of Indian Life , may 
recall the idealized description of pilgrimages which she has 
given in the book. Being a super-active person, she was not 
content with merely writing but immediately thought of orga- 
nizing groups of young men to visit some of these places, as 
an essential part of their education. When Father heard from 
Sister Nivedita that one of the monks from Belur Math — 
Sadananda Swami — was going to lead one such group to the 
shrine of Kedamath in the Western Himalayas, he made up 
his mind to send me along with them. Father thought that this 
sort of a hiking trip would be a good preliminary training for 
the life of hardship he intended me to take up, as a pupil of 
Brahmacharya Asrama at Santiniketan. I wonder how many 
parents even today would let a boy of such immature age risk 
a journey on foot trekking through the Himalayas two hundred 
miles to a snow-capped peak 13,000 ft. high. 

There was no time to waste. The outfit would have to be 
simple — a pair of ochre-coloured dhoties and kurtas, a set of 
warm underwear, a coat, two blankets, and a pair of ammuni- 
tion boots. Provided with these and one hundred rupees we 
started one evening from Howrah in a third-class railway 
carriage. I found myself in a strangely assorted company. Be- 
sides my cousin .Dinendra there were a few would-be Sannyasins, 
one or two spoilt scions of the rich and the sons of some shop- 
keepers. I was the youngest in the party, the others were much 
older. My heart sank within me. But Swamiji soon took me 
under his wing. When I found that beneath his austere yellow 



A TRIP TO THE HIMALAYAS 


39 


robes he was very human and full of humour, I took courage. 
Among his disciples were Amulya Maharaj and a son of 
Mahendra Babu, the writer of the sayings of Ramakrishna. 
Amulya Maharaj took care of me like an elder brother. I had 
great respect for him. As Swami Sankarananda he is now the 
President of the Ramakrishna Mission. We started to walk from 
Kathgodam, the last railway station on the border of the Kumaon 
hills. Beginning with easy stages of five to eight miles, we very 
soon settled down to a steady twenty miles a day. It was too 
much for some of the town-bred young men, and Swamiji got 
rid of them at Nainital. A compact group of about ten of 
us remained. It took us little over a month to cover the four 
hundred miles to Kedarnath on the border of Tibet and back. 
What a variety of experiences ! What enchanting scenes of 
beauty were unfolded before our eyes every day ! What hard- 
ships were borne with a stoicism worthy of seasoned moun- 
taineers, what miseries observed amongst the countless pilgrims 
struggling to go higher and higher up the hazardous path ! We 
mingled with a continuous stream of pilgrims who came from 
the sandy desertland of the Punjab, from the cocoanut groves 
of Malabar, from the soft green fields of Bengal, from every 
part of India. They included youngsters hardly out of their 
teens, white-haired elders retired from all worldly affairs, newly- 
wed brides and wrinkled old widows — men, women and chil- 
dren of all description, old and young. They were dressed in a 
hundred different garbs, — the gay colours of the Rajput women, 
the magnificent turbans of the Punjabi army-officers, interming- 
ling with the simple white dhoti and sari of the Bengalees, the 
ample folds of the dust-coloured skirts worn by the women 
of Agra and neighbouring districts, the long yellow robes of 
the Sannyasins and the almost nude bodies smeared with ashes 
and ochre paint of the different sects of Sadhus. Over two hundred 
miles of stony path fringing the holy river as it wound its rough 
way through Himalayan mountains, the way-worn pilgrims 
marched. The wide valleys, hot and dusty, where grew apricots 
and pomegranates, gradually gave way to forest glades scented 
with the resinous gum of the deodars. The road climbs higher 
and higher, until from a dizzy height the river is seen encircling 
the feet of the hills, silvery like the anklets of a dancing girl. 
Down in the gorge a precarious crossing is provided by a hang- 



40 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


ing bridge of ropes over the rushing torrent leaping over boul- 
ders as big as houses. Crossing a wide plateau, a flat prairie of 
reeds and grasses with solitary mango-trees to mark the way, 
the pilgrims reach Karnaprayag, where the river divides itself 
in two — the turbulent Alakananda noisily following the wider 
valley on its upward course to the glaciers of Badrinath and 
the delicate blue-green Mandakini (Heavenly stream), true to its 
name, rising rapidly through narrow gorges, cut into deeply 
wooded slopes of the mountain-chain that leads to the ice- 
fields of Kedamath. 

Sitting in a circle under a spreading walnut tree, where the 
limpid waters of the maidenly Mandakini disdain to mingle 
their virgin purity with the muddy Alakananda, the women 
light fires and bake ehapatis. Their hands keep time with the 
lilting tune of the song composed for the occasion: 

Kedarnathke charana-kamalame prana hamara atake 1 

Steeper and steeper the path winds its way upwards. It is 
hardly a path — a narrow wedge-shaped passage cut into the 
rock rising almost perpendicular from the bottom, thousands 
of feet below. The feet get swollen and bruised by the sharp 
pointed flints. Only a few steps can be taken at a time ; breath 
ing becomes difficult. Pain and misery are stamped on the face 
of everyone. I hear a heart-rending cry behind me. Turning 
round I see a decrepit beggar, almost in the last stages of 
exhaustion, bemoaning the loss of the only bit of rag which 
he had managed to wind round his blood-stained feet. As he 
saw my pitying look, he cried out: 

‘Don’t look like that ! This is a small matter. I shall not 
be left behind. My Kedarnath is calling me; — who will stand 
in my way ? Jai Kedar Ki Jai ! 


1 To the lotus feet of Kedarnath my soul holds fast. 




Early Days at Santiniketan 

It is against the nature of a genius to be content with a 
monotonous existence or be satisfied with a single purpose nr 
life. Father was no exception. Throughout his life he would 
constantly want to change his living quarters, his surroundings, 
his food and his clothes and, what mattered most, he needed 
fresh fields to give scope to his active and creative mind. It 
was no wonder that Shelidah could not hold him for very Jong. 
His next move was to Santiniketan. He had become restless 
and was eager to find a congenial place where he could ex- 
periment with his ideas about education. What could better fulfil 
the dream he had long cherished in his mind of the ideal 
atmosphere and surroundings for children than what Santiniketan 
seemed to offer ? 

My earliest recollection of the Santiniketan Asrama goes back 
to my childhood when I was only nine years of age. About this 
time my cousin Balendranath had grown enthusiastic over the 
idea of forming an All-India Theistic Society by the fusion of the 
three Brahmo Samajes of Bengal, the Arya Samaj of the Punjab 
and the Prarthana Samaj of Bombay. He had just then returned 
home after a tour in the course of which he had met the leaders 
of these religious societies and discussed with them the possi- 
bility of an amalgamation. Being an unpractical idealist and 
underrating the doctrinaire mentality of his friends, he came 
back full of hope and proposed to my grandfather that a con- 
ference of all theists be called at Santiniketan. The Maharshi 
immediately sent for Pandit Shivadhan Vidyarnava of the Adi 
Samaj, who used to teach me the rudiments of Sanskrit, and 
ordered him that within three months I should be prepared for 



42 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


the Upanayan 1 ceremony which was to take place at Santiniketan. 
This would serve as an occasion for inviting not only the 
Theists but all well-known Vedic pundits from every province 
in India. At the end of three months I was to be examined by 
the Maharshi himself to see whether I could recite correctly 
and with proper intonation his selections from the Upanishads , 
called Brahmo-dharma. My teacher, who had no illusions, re- 
garding his pupil, trembled at the herculean task imposed upon 
him. However, the Maharshi’s word was law, and teacher and 
pupil set to work with such grim determination that at the end 
of the prescribed period my grandfather was greatly pleased to 
hear me recite the mantras so dear to him. Much to my chagrin 
the reward, a fat cheque, went to my teacher. 

The invitations for my Upanayan were now issued and I was 
taken to Santiniketan. The ceremonies were performed according 
to Vedic rites with eminent pundits as witnesses. My trial began 
early one morning when with shaven head, wearing a yellow 
robe and holding a long stick (< danda ) in one hand and a beg- 
ging bowl in the other, I had first of all to recite the Upanishadic 
slokas and then take the bowl round for alms to each of the 
guests assembled at the Mandir. Then followed the usual con- 
finement for three days, during which the Gdyatri mantrcun had 
to be learnt. 

But unfortunately this was not the end, as far as I was 
concerned. Among the pundits there had come the renowned 
Vedic scholar Brahmavrata Samadhyayi from Banaras. He told 
my father that although my pronunciation was good, I should 
be taught to recite the Vedas strictly according to the Vedic 
rules. He was the only authority on the subject, and volunteered 

1 The sacred thread ceremony. 

The Upanayan takes place when a Brahmin boy is considered to be 
or a fit age to be attached to a Guru (teacher) to begin his education. He 
is taught the Gayatri mantram which every Brahmin is expected to repeal 
morning and evening as the text for his contemplation of the Infinite and 
is given the sacred thread to wear as a symbol of his initiation as a 
Brahmin. In ancient times the boy had to leave his home and live with 
his Guru in a forest hermitage as a Brahmachari. Only after having lived 
a spartan life during years of rigid training was he allowed to go home 
and take up the duties of a householder. At present the Upanayan has 
lost its real significance and the Brahmacharya period is reduced to only 
three days of seclusion. 



EARLY DAYS AT SANTINIKETAN 


43 


to stay on to teach me how to chant the Vedas. The lessons 
began with the meticulous rendering of the sound of Om. After 
a week of drilling I found that I had not made any appreciable 
progress in comprehending the mystic significance of this sym- 
bol. But the lessons continued. Thus my earliest recollection of 
the Asrama is associated with these feeble attempts at uniting 
my shrill treble with the sonorous' bass of the giant pundit, 
chanting verses from the Sdma-Veda. 

After about three years, most of which had been spent at 
Shelidah, I came back at the age of twelve to Santiniketan and 
this time for good. By a deed of trust the Maharshi had made 
over the lands and buildings at Santiniketan for the purpose 
of establishing an Asrama. One of his landed properties yield- 
ing an yearly income of Rs. 1,800 had been endowed for its 
maintenance. The Trust came into being in 1887. Amongst 
other things the Trust provided for the establishment of a 
Brahma-Vidyalaya and a Library, and for the organisation of 
an annual country fair to mark the anniversary of his own ini- 
tiation to Brahmo-dharma (7th Paush). Father had obtained 
permission from the Maharshi to start a school to be called 
Brahmacharya Asrama at Santiniketan. The formal opening 
ceremony was to be performed on the 7th Paush (23rd December) 
1901. Father took us there a few months ahead so that he 
could make preparations beforehand. He had, in the meantime, 
sold his bungalow on the Puri sea-beach in order to form the 
nucleus of a fund for starting the institution. Jagadananda Roy, 
who had served under him at Shelidah and whose services he con- 
sidered too valuable to be wasted in a zemindary office, and 
also a homeopath doctor, were immediately sent for to help him. 

As the Guest-house could not be utilized for the school, the 
only other existing building, a three-roomed house in the south- 
west corner, of the garden, was made over for the purpose. The 
first step taken towards equipping the school was to fit up a 
library in one of the rooms of this house. Father had brought 
his magnificent collection of books from Calcutta and this 
formed the nucleus of the future library at Santiniketan. The 
library has never been shifted since. The original building still 
forms the core of the present Visva-Bharati Library, but is so 
engulfed by later additions that it can hardly be distinguished. 
After the books had been safely stacked, it was found necessary 



44 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


to give attention to the accommodation for students. The doctor 
was entrusted with the construction of a dormitory. In those 
days we had so few workers that the doctor had to undertake, 
in addition to his professional work, the duties of manager, 
engineer, kitchen superintendent and a host of other offices. 
A mudhouse was built next to the Library — a most inconveni- 
ently long and narrow shed, which remained for many years 
the only shelter for students as well as for teachers, and a por- 
tion of which still survives as the Adi-Kutir. The only other 
building to boast of was the kitchen, a few walls of which still 
form part of the Visva-Bharati office. 

By appealing to some friends four pupils were obtained from 
Calcutta. I myself brought the number up to five. We were all 
clothed in long yellow robes as befitting Brahmacharis. On the 
day of the opening ceremony, however, we were given red silk 
dhotis and chaddars and it made us feel very proud and im- 
portant to stand in a row in the Mandir, the cynosure of all 
eyes. My uncle Satyendranath conducted the prayers and there 
was quite a distinguished gathering on the occasion. The 7th 
Paush Mela was already an established institution of Santiniketan. 
Strangely enough its character has remained much the same 
through more than half a century. Formerly it lasted for one 
day only. Father had composed some new songs for the open- 
ing ceremony, one of which, Mora satyer pare man, 1 remained 
as the school song for many years until it was replaced by 
Amader Santiniketan 2 . 

With the gradual increase in the number of pupils more 
teachers began to arrive. My old Sanskrit teacher Pandit 
Shivadhan Vidyarnava was brought from the Adi Brahmo Samaj. 
A Sindhi disciple of Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya, Rewachand, 
who was afterwards known as Animananda Swami when he 
founded a school on the lines of Santiniketan on the outskirts 
of Calcutta, joined shortly afterwards as a teacher of English. 
He was a Roman Catholic and a strict disciplinarian ; his was 
the kind of discipline learnt on the cricket field and applied to 
everyday life. This hardly appealed to Father and clashed with 
the ideal of freedom and self-determination which he sought 

1 We dedicate ourselves to truth. 

2 Our own Santiniketan. 



EARLY DAYS AT SANTINIKETAN 


45 


to establish in the Asrama ; as a consequence, Rewachand had 
to leave very soon. Subodh Chandra Majumdar, a cousin of 
Srish Chandra Majumdar — an old friend of father’s — came as 
our teacher of Bengali. With him also arrived Srish Babu’s son 
Santosh as a student. We were the only two pupils in the 
Entrance class and we became bosom friends. The system of 
electing monitors and captains was introduced from the begin- 
ning of the school. But the election was observed merely as a 
formality during the five years Santosh and myself remained 
as boarders. We took turns in captaining the wild crowd of 
students that came, for Santiniketan, unfortunately, was regarded 
more or less as a reformatory in those days. This long-continued 
training in leadership was of great help to us both in later life. 

It is difficult to remember the chronological order in which 
the old batch of teachers came to the Asrama. But it was 
during the second and third years that teachers like Hari 
Charan Banerji, Bhupendranath Sanyal, Satish Chandra Roy, 
Ajit Kumar Chakravarty, whose names are still familiar to most 
persons connected with the Asrama, joined the institution. Our 
first Headmaster, in the real sense, was Monoranjan Banerji, a 
cousin of Rev. Kalicharan Banerji, who took charge when we 
were preparing for the Entrance Examination. He did not re- 
main very long as the place did not suit his health. 

The life led by both pupils and teachers was not only simple 
but almost austere. The ideal of Brahmacharya was the keynote 
of everything. The yellow uniform, which covered up the 
poverty of clothes; a pair of blankets, which served as our only 
bedding ; the vegetarian meals comparable to jail diet in their 
dull monotony — these were the standards laid down. Nobody 
wore shoes or even sandals and such luxuries as toothpaste or 
hair oil were taboo. I think one of the sorest trials my mother 
ever had was when Father insisted that I should live in the 
school boarding-house. She could not bear the miserable condi- 
tion in which we lived, especially with regard to food, and tried 
to console herself by frequently inviting the teachers and students 
and feeding them with tempting dishes prepared by herself. 
Naturally she did not resent it when surreptitious raids were 
made on her pantry. 

In spite of everything — the poverty and lack of normal 
comfort and convenience — nobody complained, for we really 



46 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


believed in simple living and took pride in our poverty. How- 
ever simple, the strain on Father’s resources to maintain the 
school must have been great. The institution had no income of 
its own besides the annual Rs. 1,800 drawn from the Santiniketan 
Trust. For several years students were not charged fees of any 
kind. They were given not only free education, but food and 
very often clothing as well. The whole burden had to be borne 
by Father, when his own private income was barely Rs. 200 a 
month. My mother had to sell nearly all her jewellery for the 
support of the school, before she died in 1902. 

But it would be wrong to emphasize only the dark side of 
the picture. We were essentially a happy lot and life was very 
rich and interesting in spite of our outward poverty. Whenever 
Father was present, he poured his soul into the institution and 
made it lively by singing songs which he never tired of com- 
posing, reciting his poems, telling stories from the Mahabharaia , 
playing indoor games with the boys, rehearsing plays, and even 
taking classes. All the teachers lived with us in the same dormi- 
tory, and we shared joys and sorrows equally amongst us. There 
was a wonderful feeling of genuine camaraderie. The teachers 
never resented the many practical jokes we played on them be- 
cause they knew there was respect underneath the occasional 
harmless fun we indulged in. We had a wholesome fear of 
Jagadananda Roy, but that did not dissuade us from playing 
tricks on him sometimes. I remember particularly one instance. 
Once when he was sleeping soundly on a cot in the verandah 
a few of us lusty rascals quietly lifted him up with the bed and 
then with cries of ‘ Harl boi (pray to God) made straight for 
the bund (river) where the immersion took place. ‘Master- 
mashay’ was all the time showering curses on us, but we did 
not mind because we could detect a faint flicker of a smile 
hidden beneath his furious exterior. 

We were indeed a happy family, perhaps too big to be always 
homogeneous, but toleration for the weaknesses and idiosyn- 
crasies of individuals and respect for each other kept the group 
together in a bond of brotherly feeling, which gave a distinct 
character to the institution. Talented young men hardly ever 
came to us, but whatever their intellectual attainments, a few 
months at the Asrama stamped every student with a character 
which easily marked him off from the crowd. This kind of 



A SUMMER VACATION AT SANTINIKETAN 47 

character-building, to my mind, has been a real contribution of 
Santiniketan to our country. 


A Summer Vacation at Santiniketan 

A fortnight of scorching sun and hot winds at the end of April 
1904. The students had closed their books and gone away to 
seek kinder shelter elsewhere. The summer vacation at Santi- 
niketan had begun, and left me and a few other unfortunates 
(including my nephew, Dinendranath, whom father once des- 
cribed as the ‘custodian’ of his songs) to a vagabond existence 
in the empty halls of the institution. The humming life of the 
Asrama had all of a sudden stopped. We prepared ourselves 
for a succession of dull monotonous days and the discomforts 
of a dry hot season. But very soon I got used to the emptiness 
and the loneliness. Instead of getting bored, as I had expected, 
I was surprised to find that new interests and strange beauties, 
which had quite escaped me during the busy life of the term, 
gradually began to permeate my consciousness and in the end 
completely enveloped me. 

Nature is a jealous mistress : she will give herself only to 
those who come to her in solitude and with a clean mind. 
Everyday we had risen as the bells sounded and the early dawn 
had reddened the horizon just beyond the row of palms. But 
our eyes had failed to see it. Now the bell did not ring, but 
I hastened out of bed long before the dawn broke in the eastern 
sky, fearful lest I missed a shade of colour I had not seen be- 
fore. The days were long, but every hour was charged with 
possibilities, every tree bore a message, every twitter of the 
birds added a new zest to life. My friends and my noisy class- 
mates had deserted me, but the earth, the air, the sky, the 
little animals and insects that we scorned even to glance at on 
other days, had come so close to me that I could not turn away 
but had to look at them again and again and each time un- 
cover some new secret, some unfamiliar aspect. It was with a 
keen desire for such strange discoveries and novel experiences 
that I would roam about the barren wastes in the blazing sun, 
or follow a myna to its nest in the sal forest, or keep long 
hours of vigil to hear the sound of the insects at night. 

It was not all poetry. One day about noon I was standing 



48 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


in the verandah of the library, looking at the heat-waves rising 
rhythmically over the barren rice-fields and the occasional whirl- 
winds that would come from nowhere, gather the dry leaves 
and shoot them straight up to impossible heights, when a pair 
of hyenas coolly walked into the scene and, in the twinkling 
of an eye, before I could take up a stick and run after them, 
one of them had killed a lamb, lifted it bodily up on its back: 
and disappeared. The chase was quite useless, and in any case 
the lamb had been dead long before I realised what had 
happened. The daring swiftness of these animals is unbelievable. 

It was during the summer holidays that I came in close 
contact for the first and last time with the poet Satish Roy. For 
he died before the next holidays began. But who can gauge the 
infinite value of the companionship of a rare genius, even 
though it be for a short time? He radiated energy and enthu- 
siasm, combined a fearlessly critical mind with an almost 
voluptuous enjoyment of all that was good. Naive and abso- 
lutely unconventional in his thoughts and habits, he was withal 
deeply respectful where respect was due. The most wonderful 
thing about him was the rich store of his knowledge of litera- 
true ; a youth of twenty-one, he could recite for hours freely 
from Virgil, Dante, Goethe, Shakespeare or Kalidas, — his 
favourites being Browning and Rabindranath. His generous 
nature knew no distinctions, and although at that time I was 
quite immature in years and mind, Satish Roy poured his 
store of knowledge and his soul on me. During the day we 
would sit in a cool dark comer of the library and read the 
classics. And very often the whole night was spent lying on our 
backs on the bare ground, watching the constellations dip one 
after the other into oblivion, and listening to his voice reciting 
Bengali poetry. It was rarely necessary to ask the meaning of 
a word or a passage, his declamation was so expressive. But 
never did I hear him recite so well (and never shall I want to 
hear poems recited again from the mouth of any one else) as 
he did one day to the accompaniment of a thunderstorm that 
swept over the Asrama. As it was exceptionally hot and sultry 
that afternoon — it was the last day of Chaitra 1 — we had kept 

1 That is, the last day of the Bengali year, falling somewhere about the 
' middle of April. 



A SUMMER VACATION AT SANTINIKETAN 


49 


inside the darkened room longer than usual. As we stepped 
out, a glorious sight took us completely by surprise. Black, inky 
clouds had gathered in the northwest sky and kept advancing 
like the deep cavernous mouth of an angry monster, ready to 
swallow the earth. Terrible were its deep sonorous rumblings, 
and its path was marked with clouds of red dust mountain- 
high. We stood awe-struck on the verandah and watched its 
rapid progress across the open ground, until it flung itself upon 
the Asrama with deafening peals of thunder and blinding 
showers of rain. At the same time Satish Roy’s voice rang out 
with the opening stanza of Barsha-ShesK the well-known poem 
of my father on a stormy ‘Year End’ : 

Thou comest. New Year, whirling in a frantic dance 
amidst the stampede of the wind-lashed clouds 
and infuriate showers, 
while trampled by thy turbulence 

are scattered away the faded and the frail 
in an eddying agony of death. 1 

His voice never faltered once, and kept even pace with the 
storm till the last line. I do not know whether I listened to the 
words that were uttered or merely watched entranced the 
speaker whose every movement seemed inspired. Before we rea- 
lised what had happened, Satish Roy had vanished into the 
storm. Afterwards a search-party found his battered and half- 
dead form lying under a tree near the Bhuvandanga village. 

With Satish Roy and Dinendranath as our leaders during the 
vacation, the atmosphere of the Asrama became charged with 
poetry and music. Everyone had either to fall into line with 
this mood or be lost in his own isolation. There was a puritan 
gentleman, a fine figure with a flowing white beard like a 
Hebrew patriarch, who did not approve of us youngsters lead- 
ing this sort of Bohemian life in the Asrama. Like one of those 
Pilgrim Fathers, he considered Santiniketan to be a puritan 
colony, and therefore it hurt his sense of propriety to see us 
listening to unexpurgated editions of Shakespeare and Kalidas. 
T once remember him hurriedly leaving the adjoining room 
where he had his office, stopping both ears with his fingers, to 

1 Free translation of the original Bengali by the author, first published 
in the Spectator, London, 10 Jan. 1913. 



50 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


avoid overhearing some particularly delectable passages from 
Sakuntala. 

A teacher of science had come to spend the vacation with us, 
and he gave me lessons in chemistry with the help of a few 
test-tubes and beakers that lay in the dust in a corner of the 
so-called laboratory. He soon fell in with the general atmos- 
phere and even began to personify the elements into deities — 
some with four arms, some with ten heads and so on, and gave 
graphic descriptions of their love-makings and jealousies. His 
descriptions were so vivid that later on when I had to take up 
a more serious study of the subject, I had no difficulty in work- 
ing out any chemical formula. At that time we had no idea 
that the same science teacher would become a well-known poet 
of modern Bengal . 1 

Father had accompanied my ailing sister to Almora, from 
where he used to send us fresh mountain-honey as a consola- 
tion. He had left the Asrama in charge of Brahmabandhab 
Upadhyaya, a remarkable figure in many ways. Born in an 
orthodox Brahmin family, he was attracted to the Brahmo 
Samaj in his youth. His reading of Cardinal Newman’s works 
later on made him a convert to the Catholic faith. During this 
period, he edited a remarkable weekly in English, called Sophia. 
Although a Catholic, he dressed in the saffron robes of a Hindu 
sannyasin, such was his strong national feeling. It was this in- 
born national pride which made him finally give up Christianity 
and take to a militant form of Hinduism towards the end of 
his life. He came to the Asrama when he was still in an unsettled 
state of mind. But very soon the rapid development of virulent 
nationalism in Upadhyaya led to a parting of the ways. Father 
remained content with the purely educational experiment at 
Santiniketan, while the other started the pungent national daily, 
Sandhya, and threw himself headlong into politics in Calcutta. 
I have rarely met any one who could speak or write such beauti- 
ful and chaste English. But when he took to politics he gave it 
up for a virile colloquial Bengali of a Hitlerian type. 

We regarded Brahmabandhab not only as the immediate head 
of the institution, but as a sannyasin , a spiritual man, before 
whom we would stand in great awe and fear. One day a wrestler 


1 The late Prof. Surendranath Maitra. 



A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM 


51 


from the Punjab wandered into the Asrama and challenged 
anybody to give him a trial. A look at his figure kept everyone 
at a good distance. We youngsters were beginning to feel dis- 
appointed at missing such a rare treat like this when, to our 
consternation and surprise, Upadhyayji came running in tights 
and, with loud slaps on the biceps, as is the custom, challenged 
the Punjabi giant to a fight. And didn’t the Bengali intellectual 
give a good time to the professional wrestler ! 

The aspect of Santiniketan during the dry summer months 
is little known to outsiders : the extreme heat and dryness which 
make the grass crackle underfoot, the burnt sienna colour of 
the whole landscape, the hot gusts of wind that raise clouds 
of red dust, and the sudden thunderstorms that are gorgeous 
to witness but destructive to all property. It is indeed a Rudra- 
Vaisakh 1 that visits this place, but how like magic everything 
is changed after the first good shower in June ! With one sweep 
of the magician’s wand, leaves clothe the trees again, the mea- 
dows become softly green, the birds sing ceaselessly from every 
branch, the desert is transformed into a garden. 

Nature rejoiced — but when the term began I took my seat 
in the class with a heavy heart. 


A Midsummer Night's Dream 

My student life in the Santiniketan Asrama should have ended 
when I passed the Entrance examination. Provision for collegiate 
training in the institution came to be made much later. But 
Father did not like the idea of sending me to a college in 
Calcutta. So I stayed on at Santiniketan monitoring the pupils 
whose number had increased to more than fifty and picking up 
whatever knowledge I could obtain for myself from the teachers. 
Vidhusekhara Bhattacharya had just then come to us from 
Banaras. I could not have had a better teacher for Sanskrit and 
Pali. He would not let us treat Sanskrit as a dead language. 
Not content with making me memorize the Panini grammar and 
analyze difficult texts of Kalidas, Bhartrihari and other authors, 
he would insist on our carrying on conversation in that classical 

1 Rudra , terrible, the destructive aspect of Siva ; 

Vaisakh , corresponding to April-May. 



52 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


language. I was equally fortunate in having Mohit Chandra Sen 
as my teacher of English. After we had gone through A Mid- 
summer Night's Dream , Mohit Babu wanted this play to be 
staged at Santiniketan. Undaunted by the paucity of talents 
equal to producing a play in English, and one of Shakespeare’s 
at that, we made preparations there and then. No one was 
spared. Our teacher of Mathematics, Jagadananda Roy, was 
given the part of Wall since he had only a few lines to speak. 
On the night of the play he duly came on the stage, started with 
the opening line, ‘In this same interlude it doth befall that I, 
one Snout by name, present a Wall’, then stopped, looked en- 
quiringly at all the other actors on the stage to see if they could 
help him to remember the rest of his speech and at last saying, ‘And 
thus have I Wall my part discharged so’, made a hasty exit as 
the audience roared with laughter. However unfortunate his first 
appearance on the stage he was not spared by Father and later 
on he earned a reputation as a consummate actor when some of 
Father’s dramas were performed in Calcutta. Particularly in the 
role of Laksheswar in Saradotsab as the miserly merchant, his 
acting rose to the height of perfection. It would almost appear 
as if he was cut out for the part or the part for him. 

The Shadow of Death 

While Father was entirely absorbed in his educational experiment 
at Santiniketan, Mother fell ill and she had to be taken to 
Calcutta for treatment. Before the doctors gave up hope Mother 
had come to realize that she would not recover. The last time 
when I went to her bedside she could not speak but on seeing 
me, tears silently rolled down her cheeks. That night my sisters 
Bela, Rani and Mira and myself and my brother Sami — who 
was then just a small child — we were all sent to sleep in another 
part of the house. But Bela and I could not go to sleep. A 
vague fear kept us awake. Early in the morning we crept out 
on to a terrace overlooking the room where Mother slept. An 
ominous silence hung over the house, the shadow of death seemed 
to have crossed its threshold with stealthy steps during the 
night. We knew without anyone telling us that we had lost our 
mother. That evening my father gave me Mother’s pair of slip- 
pers to keep. They have been carefully preserved ever since. 



THE SHADOW OF DEATH 


53 


Father kept outwardly calm and went back to Santiniketan to 
his work there as though nothing had disturbed his mind, leaving 
us in the care of a distant aunt of my mother. But his feeling — 
the keen sense of separation and loneliness — poured into a series 
of poems afterwards published as Smaran (In Remembrance). 

In desperate hope I go and search for her in all the corners of 
my room ; I find her not. 

My house is small and what once has gone from it can 
never be regained. 

But infinite is thy mansion, my lord, and seeking her I have 
come to thy door. 

I stand under the golden canopy of thy evening sky and 
lift my eager eyes to thy face. 

I have come to the brink of eternity from which nothing 
can vanish — no hope, no happiness, no vision 
of a face seen through tears. 

Oh, dip my emptied life into that ocean, plunge it into the 
deepest fullness. 

Let me for once feel that lost sweet touch in the allness of 
the Universe. 

The death of my mother was only the beginning of a succession 
of deaths of many of those whom my father loved most. 

Soon after he had returned to Santiniketan and had barely 
started to devote his attention to the school, my sister Rani 
developed tuberculosis and Father had to take her to Hazaribagh 
for open-air treatment. At that time there were no sanatoriums 
for treatment of this disease. Father, knowing that he would 
have to be absent for a long time, was anxious to find a trust- 
worthy person under whose care he could leave the institution. 
He had recently come in close contact with Mohit Chandra Sen 
who was then engaged in getting ready a complete edition of 
his writings. Father had not only a deep regard for Mohit Babu’s 
scholarship but was attracted to him by his charming persona- 
lity. Mohit Babu was then a professor in a college in Calcutta. 
During the absence of Father he used to pay frequent visits 
and later on, resigning his professorship, settled down at Santi- 
niketan and devoted himself to the school. 

Finding that the climate of Hazaribagh was not bracing 
enough Father took my sister to the hills of Almora. I was left 
as a regular boarder in the Santiniketan school. After I had sat 
for the Entrance examination and returned to the school Mohit 



54 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Babu read Milton and Shakespeare to me and Vidhusekhara 
Bhattacharya taught me Sanskrit and Pali. My leisure hours 
were spent in translating Asvaghosha’s Buddha-Charita into 
Bengali. After many years the translation was published by the 
Visva-Bharati in two volumes. My knowledge of Sanskrit had 
become so rusty by that time that I am ashamed to confess that 
the final editing of the book had to be entrusted to a scholar of 
the Research Department at Visva-Bharati Vidya-Bhavana. 

With the summer vacation the students and most of the staff 
left Santiniketan and I was left to my own devices. On my 
father’s desk I discovered two bound volumes containing copies 
of letters written by him to my cousin Indira. My cousin had 
evidently carefully preserved all the letters and copied them out 
in her beautiful handwriting in the two volumes neatly decora- 
ted by her brother Surendranath. I was greatly excited by the 
discovery. With a deck-chair and these two books I climbed on 
top of a little hillock and settled down to read the letters under 
the shade of a banyan tree. The panorama of the barren plain' 
extending as far as the horizon, with nothing to break its mono- 
tony except a line of palmyra palms standing like sentinels 
keeping vigil over the midday solitude, spread out before me as 
I lay there. The heat reflected from the sandy wasteland vibra- 
ted rhythmically as it rose through the still air. Not even a bird’s 
note distracted my attention. They had retired to leafy shades of 
the trees to escape from the burning heat of the sun. 

The letters were written mostly from Shelidah and Potisar 
while Father was cruising about the rivers in that part of Bengal 
in his house-boat. I had been longing to spend the vacation 
there amidst the lusciously green fields and the placid waters 
of the rivers whereas I had to be content with the arid waste- 
lands around Santiniketan where not even a blade of green 
could be seen. But the vivid descriptions in the letters had a 
magical effect on me. For days I would be transported to my 
favourite haunts in Shelidah and Potisar. Never have I read any 
book with more enjoyment. These letters were published by me 
and my brother-in-law Nagendranath Gangulee in 1911 as 
Chhinna-Patra. Unfortunately Father had mercilessly run his 
pen through good portions of the letters. 

While I was loitering about the Asrama and reading the letters 
over and over again the sad news of the death of my sister 



THE SHADOW OF DEATH 


55 


Rani was conveyed to me from Calcutta. Father had brought 
her back there finding that she had much improved in health 
in Almora — but a relapse ended fatally and she died nine 
months after the death of my mother. 

Father now devoted himself with renewed zeal to the affairs 
of the school. The most difficult task was to find the right kind 
of teachers. Frequent changes had to be made. Every time a 
new teacher was engaged Father had to train him and mould 
him to fit in with the ideals of the Asrama. Under his guidance 
the school began to grow. It had started with five students and 
now there were more than fifty. Unfortunately just when he 
was feeling satisfied with the progress that was being made 
another mishap occurred in the family that greatly disturbed 
Father’s mind. My grandfather, the Maharshi, died in Calcutta. 
Father had to go there as soon as he heard about his illness 
and remained a long time there after grandfather’s death to 
settle business affairs consequent on the passing away of the 
head of a big family like ours. After the death of the Maharshi 
the family broke up — the members no longer lived together as 
in a Hindu joint family. 

The death of my brother Samindra took place when I was in 
college in America. My younger sister Mira and Sami had re- 
mained at Santiniketan with Father when I left for the U.S.A. 
Sami was a bright imaginative boy and we all cherished the 
hope that he would be a poet like Father when he grew up. But 
fate decreed otherwise. While holidaying with some friends at 
Monghyr he fell a victim to cholera and died soon after Father 
arrived there. A cable brought this terrible news to me in a 
boarding house far from home. 

A few years later, after I had settled down at Santiniketan my 
sister Bela, who was staying with her husband in Calcutta, fell 
ill. Like Rani, my elder sister also developed tuberculosis. From 
the time that she fell ill and until her death Father was constantly 
by her bedside attending her as no nurse could possibly do and 
trying his best to keep her cheerful. Bela could write well. 
Father gave her some plots and made her write short stories. 
Bela was his favourite child and her death was a severe blow 
to him. 

Vicissitudes of life, pain or afflictions, however, never upset the 
equanimity of my father’s mind. Like his father, the Maharshi, 



56 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


he remained calm and his inward peace was not disturbed by 
any calamity however painful. Some superhuman sakti gave 
him the power to resist and rise above misfortunes of the most 
painful nature. 

Throughout all these years of the severest trial to him 
Father’s pen never had any rest. While he was nursing Rani 
and taking her from one health resort to another in the vain 
effort to cure her malady, he was engaged in writing the novels 

Chokher Bali (Eye-Sore) and Nauka Dubi (The Wreck). Father 

hardly ever completed writing a novel at a stretch. As each 
chapter would get written it would be sent to the journal publi- 
shing the novel as a serial. Even when he would be passing 
through very great distress editors never had to wait for the 
regular instalments from his pen. Only a perfect control of the 
emotions together with an irrepressible urge for creative ex- 
pression could explain the continuous outpouring of his 

thoughts in poems, novels, short stories, essays and other 
writings irrespective of his surroundings or circumstances, 

mental or physical. 



The Swadeshi Movement 


Another midsummer madness which took hold of me during 
the period between my Entrance Examination and departure 
for the U.S.A. was the fervour of an aggressive kind of patrio- 
tism. I was drawn into the whirlpool of politics that was agita- 
ting the country. The Swadeshi movement in Bengal started at 
the very beginning of this century and reached its acme during 
the years 1905 and 1906. To us, nurtured from childhood in an 
atmosphere of all that nationalism truly denoted, it did not 
come as a surprise. Those who have read my father’s Remini- 
scences will remember how even in his boyhood days he wit- 
nessed many a valiant effort made by his elders to introduce 
Swadeshi in every sphere of life. A classic example was the 
attempt made by my uncle Jyotirindranath, whose main interest 
was in art and music, to float a river navigation company as a 
Swadeshi enterprise. He actually purchased a few steam-boats 
and started plying them on the East Bengal rivers. This fool- 
hardy adventure very soon came to an abrupt end after a 
powerful British combine by somewhat questionable means 
compelled my uncle to wind up his business. He had to pay 
dearly for his patriotic zeal as it took him long years to repay 
his borrowed capital. 

These efforts were only an outward symbol of their Swadeshi 
spirit. In their ways of living, style of dress and even in their 
manner of thinking, our family had remained entirely Indian in 
spite of the impact of English manners and customs which domi- 
nated the educated upper classes of India. In our family we were 
Indians to^ the core. Therefore when our countrymen took up 
the cry of Swadeshi it found a ready response in our hearts. 



58 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


This movement was a people’s movement — spontaneous and 
not whipped up by any political organisation — and it may be 
said to have started as a reaction to the abortive and mildly 
moderate politics of the National Congress. The people had be- 
come restive — they wanted to go into action to throw off the 
yoke of a foreign rule. The negative and quite ineffective pro- 
gramme of passing resolutions by the Congress did not satisfy 
them. A frenzy of feeling for the motherland was in evidence 
everywhere. Bengal was carried along a wave of emotion unsur- 
passed in her history. Its ripples reached us even at Santiniketan. 
My classmate Santosh Majumdar and myself became restive. 
Every morning we joined in a wandering choir led by my 
nephew Dinendranath and Ajit Chakravarty singing Swadeshi 
songs in the neighbouring villages and making collections for the 
National Fund. Occasionally we went into the town to preach 
boycott of British goods. The victory won by Japan over Russia 
in 1905 gave an added impetus to the Swadeshi movement. On 
the day the Treaty was signed we lit a big bonfire in the middle 
of our football field and sang songs all night long to celebrate 
the awakening of Asia. Father had brought a ju-jutsu expert 
from Japan. We took lessons from him in order to prepare our- 
selves to fight the British ! Had not the spirit and training of 
judo helped the Japanese to win the war ? 

Quite early the movement split up into two sections — there 
were those who believed in peaceful methods and others, the 
Extremists, more often called the Terrorists, who wanted to 
drive out the British by bringing about a violent revolution. 

For a proper understanding of the movement we must not 
ignore the part played by a group of intellectuals. The ground 
was undoubtedly prepared by them although most of them never 
sought the limelight. Even now very few realize the great in- 
fluence they exerted on the youth of the day and how they fired 
their patriotic feelings. Trying to recall their names, those that 
come uppermost to my mind in this connection are curiously 
not those of Bengalis, nor even of Indians, but those of two 
foreigners — Count Kakuzo Okakura and Sister Nivedita. 

Count Okakura came to Calcutta unobtrusively — quite a 
stranger to the city. How he came in contact with our family 
I do not know, but he made his home with my cousin Surendra- 
nath, for whom he conceived a great liking. While staying there 



THE SWADESHI MOVEMENT 


59 


he soon got acquainted with the leaders of society. When he 
wrote his book Ideals of the East it came as a revelation to our 
people. The opening sentence, ‘Asia is one. The Himalayas 
divide only to accentuate two mighty civilizations, the Chinese 
with its communism of Confucius and India with its individua- 
lism of the Vedas’, stirred the inmost depths of our minds. 
He found congenial friends not only in members of our family 
but persons like Jagadish Chandra Bose, Sister Nivedita, Bipin 
Chandra Pal and some of the leaders of the Extremist group. 
Much has been written and we all know the result of the impact 
of the British occupation on the development of the life of 
Bengal, but very few realize the deep influence that the contact 
with the wonderful personality of this Japanese sage had on 
the recent history of this province. He came at a critical period, 
when the reaction against Westernization had barely started. 
Through his conversations and writings he inspired the people 
to regain confidence in their own civilization and to believe in 
the great contribution that Asia cOuld still make to world cul- 
ture. This brought about a silent revolution and orientated the 
minds of the intellectuals in Bengal towards a healthy nationa- 
lism which gradually penetrated the whole of India. 

Sister Nivedita, the devoted follower of Swami Vivekananda, 
was of Irish birth. She had the zeal of a convert and was more 
of an Indian than any native-born. Inspired by the patriotic 
feelings of her guru the Irish blood in her did not let her remain 
passive. Her dynamic personality drove her to become a torch- 
bearer of the cause of India’s freedom and her rehabilitation in 
spiritual and cultural status. Her association with Swami 
Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna Mission gave her ample 
opportunity to come in contact not only with persons of emi- 
nence but with a large number of young men. In the responsive 
minds of these she was able to kindle the fire of patriotism and 
a spirit of adventure. 

In 1905 while I was spending a holiday at Giridih with Santosh 
Majumdar I was drawn into the thick of the movement. We had 
as our neighbours Monoranjan Guha Thakurta, a well-known 
political leader, and V. Roy, an idealist with unbounded enthu- 
siasm for all good causes. Every morning a few of us would go 
about the town singing patriotic songs. In the evenings a larger 
party would be formed to canvass the shopkeepers to give up 



60 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


selling British goods and at the end there would be a bonfire of 
bundles of Manchester-made cloth that we had forced the shops 
to part with. One day we were asked to meet the barrister, P. 
Mitter, who had come up from Calcutta and was putting up at 
the Dak Bungalow. He told us about the Anusilan Samiti and 
how the Terrorist party was organising an underground move- 
ment and making secret preparations for getting rid of the British 
and freeing our country from the foreign rule. It thrilled us to 
hear him talk such sedition so openly. We were drawn to him 
because we felt flattered that he had taken us into his confi- 
dence. Before he left we gave him our promise that we would 
join the Anusilan Samiti as soon as we went to Calcutta. 

This was a time — such periods of exhilaration and activity 
come rarely in the history of a nation — when all sorts of plans 
were made on the spur of the moment with dozens of young 
men ready to carry them out. I remember how Bipin Chandra 
Pal, Sakharam Ganesh Deuskar, Ramendra Sundar Trivedi, 
Hem Chandra Mullick, Satish Chandra Mukherji and others 
would often turn up in the middle of the night and hold secret 
conferences with Father and Gaganendranath about some wild 
project. All sorts of rumours would spread like wild-fire one 
moment to be replaced by others of a more thrilling nature. 

Although Father helped the movement forward with his 
lectures and writings (especially his patriotic songs), his mind 
was ever active in thinking how the enthusiasm of the people 
could be canalized in constructive work. In a paper — ‘Swadeshi 
Samaj’ — which he read to a large Calcutta audience at the 
Minerva Theatre about this time he outlined a Comprehensive 
programme for the re-organisation of rural Bengal on the basis 
of self-help and the revival of indigenous industries. 

One morning — it was a bright but chilly morning in 
November — we were out walking across a coppice of sal trees. 
The grass was still wet with dew, the drops hung glistening like 
crystals as the slanting rays of the sun fell on them. Father was 
in an exhilarated mood and kept humming a tune when suddenly 
he began to talk of the need for proper education in our country. 
Jatin Bose, the son-in-law of his friend Akshoy Chaudhury, was 
with us. Father went on telling him that the Calcutta University 
was unable to give our young men the education that they 
needed. On coming back to our bungalow the conversation 



THE SWADESHI MOVEMENT 


61 


continued on the same subject at the breakfast table. On a 
sudden impulse Father asked himself : Should we not have our 
own national university ? Thereafter he grew restless. By the 
evening he had left for Calcutta with the purpose of exploring 
the ground for founding a national university. He met with a 
ready response and within a few weeks the National Council 
of Education came into existence. Father undertook to draft 
the syllabus of studies and other details for the institution to 
be started under the Council. In this way the beginnings of the 
Jadavpur University were laid. Father was, however, disillu- 
sioned after one or two meetings of the Council when he found 
that the members were more interested in establishing a rival 
to the Calcutta University, with perhaps a bias towards technical 
education, than in breaking away from the traditions and con- 
ventions of the code of education established by the British in 
India and boldly adopting a system Indian in character but 
suited to modern conditions. He ceased to attend any further 
meetings. 

Father took an effective part in the agitation that followed 
the partition of Bengal. It almost appeared as if one day he 
emerged out of his seclusion to become overnight the high priest 
of Indian nationalism. In songs and poems and in trenchant 
addresses on the public platforms he bitterly attacked Curzon’s 
policy of divide and rule. At the same time he made a power- 
ful appeal to the people to stand together — self-respecting and 
self-reliant. He gave a new orientation to the traditional cere- 
mony of Rakhi-bandhan and under his inspiration the wrist- 
band of coloured thread became the symbol of the undying 
unity of Bengal. On the day of Rakhi-bandhan he headed a 
huge procession through the streets of the city, singing the songs 

Bidhir badhan kdtbe tumi emcm saktiman... 

Art thou so mighty that you wish to cut this 

fate-forged bond... 

and Bangldr mciti, Bdnglar jal... 

Let the earth and the water 

the air and fruits of my country be 
sweet, my God. 

Let the lives and hearts of sons 

and daughters of my country 
be one, my God. 



62 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Unprecedented scenes of patriotic emotion were witnessed on 
this day. In the afternoon a big crowd had gathered in the 
spacious courtyard of Pashupati Bose’s house at Baghbazar. 
Father appealed to the people to raise a fund to be called the 
National Fund for building a People’s Hall and carrying on the 
national movement. More than Rs. 50,000 was collected on the 
spot. 

It became apparent to Father, however, that he could not 
approve of the turn the political leaders were trying to give to 
the Swadeshi movement. In all his associations with political 
movements from the Swadeshi movement of 1905-6 to the Non- 
Cooperation movement of 1921 he constantly raised his solitary 
voice reiterating his belief in a constructive programme. People 
often wonder why he should have identified himself and even 
taken a leading part in the Swadeshi movement and then 
suddenly dissociated himself from its activities. 

I think that was mainly because the genius in him was funda- 
mentally creative in its character. It was impossible for him to 
accept what he called ‘the passion for rejection’ as an ideal. In 
one of his letters to C. F. Andrews in March, 1921 he has 
recounted a very significant incident : 

I remember the day, during the Swadeshi movement in Bengal, 
when a crowd of young students came to see me in the first 
floor of our ‘Vichitra’ house. They said to me that if I would 
order them to leave their schools and colleges they would ins- 
tantly obey. I was emphatic in my refusal to do so, and they 
went away angry, doubting the sincerity of my love for my 
motherland. And yet long before this popular ebullition of ex- 
citement, I myself had given a thousand rupees, when I had 
not five rupees to call my own, to open a Swadeshi store and 
courted banter and bankruptcy. 

The reason for my refusal to advise those students to leave 
their school was because the anarchy of emptiness never tempts 
me, even when it is resorted to as a temporary measure. I am 
frightened at an abstraction which is ready to ignore living 
reality. These students were no mere phantoms to me. 

For a similar reason he regarded the idea of non-cooperation 
also as ‘political asceticism’ and failed to reconcile himself to 
the negative expressions of the contemporary movement in 
India. ‘Our students’. Father wrote in the same letter from which 
I have quoted above, ‘are bringing their offering of sacrifices to 



THE SWADESHI MOVEMENT 


6 * 

what ? Not to a fuller education, but to non-education.’ 

Earlier, in 1920, he had written in words more positive and 
emphatic : 

I find our countrymen are furiously excited about Non- 
cooperation. It will grow into something like our Swadeshi 
movement in Bengal. Such an emotional outbreak should have 
been taken advantage of in starting independent organizations 
all over India for serving our country. 

Let Mahatma Gandhi be the true leader in this ; let him send 
his call for positive service, ask for homage in sacrifice, which 
has its end in love and creation. I shall be willing to sit at his 
feet and do his bidding if he commands me to cooperate with 
my countrymen in service and love. I refuse to waste my man- 
hood in lighting fires of anger and spreading it from house to 
house. 

But perhaps he explained his position best in the following 
words written to C. F. Andrews from New York in January* 

1921 : 

Swadeshi, swarajism, ordinarily produce intense excitement in 
the minds of my countrymen, because they carry in them some 
fervour of passion generated by the exclusiveness of their rage. 
It cannot be said that I am untouched by this heat and move- 
ment. But somehow, by my temperament as a poet, I am incapa- 
ble of accepting these objects as final. They claim from us a 
great deal more than is their due. After a certain point is 
reached, I find myself obliged to separate myself from my own 
people, with whom I have been working, and my soul cries 
out : The complete man must never be sacrificed to the patriotic 
man, or even to the merely moral man. 

To me humanity is rich and large and many-sided. 

Father’s faith in the creative nationalism of India steadily 
grew and developed into the larger ideal of a cultural co- 
operation among the peoples of the East and the West, which 
he chose to call the ideal of Visva-Bharati. On his return from 
Europe in 1921 he finally dedicated himself to the multifarious 
creative and constructive activities of the institutions that he had 
organized at Santiniketan and Sriniketan, which, being inter- 
national in their character and outlook, were, as Mahatma 
Gandhi had once aptly put it, ‘truly national’. 

So, there came the inevitable parting of the ways. Father’s 
withdrawal from the political arena was as complete as un- 



64 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


obtrusive. Only some poems of his Kheya gave expression to 
his feelings. There was, however, no lack of activity in his retire- 
ment. His programme of constructive nationalism led him a 
few years later to Sriniketan. In the meantime he fell back 
on his own resources. He had his own estates as an experi- 
mental ground. There he sent a group of workers whom he had 
trained to organize the villages on a plan outlined by him. He 
thought that in order to resuscitate rural life, agriculture, which 
is the basic economic resource of the people, must be improved. 
He, therefore, desired that Santosh and I must go abroad to 
get technical training in agriculture and animal husbandry so 
that after our return we could help him. 



Outward Bound 


Just then an opportunity came. An association had been formed 
to help students to go to foreign countries to study science and 
industry. Father heard that the first batch of students would be 
sailing for Japan and the U.S.A. very soon. He asked us to get 
ready to join this party. We were to go on to the U.S.A. and 
study in a University which provided training in agriculture. 

Thus in the month of April, 1906, a group of sixteen young 
men from Bengal ventured forth in quest of education in a 
cargo boat bound for the Far East. Their only resources were a 
concession passage provided by a benevolent society and a 
bunch of introduction letters. But the lack of material resources 
did not in any way cool the wild ardour and reckless spirit of 
this group, fresh from the political battleground of the Swadeshi 
movement. Most of them wanted to acquire the technical know- 
ledge and skill needed for modern industry and aspired to 
revive trade and commerce in India. 1 They had neither money 
nor preliminary training and their ignorance of the foreign 
countries whither they were bound was colossal. As a young 
boy of eighteen I did not find the company uncongenial though 
strange and so utterly different from what we had been used to 
at Santiniketan. 

Drifting from port to port along the coast of Malay and 
'China we managed to reach Japan after about five weeks. Our 
admiration for Japan in those days was boundless. We looked 
upon every Japanese as a hero. Had they not helped to kill the 
spectre of the ‘foreign devil’ in the Orient for good ? Therefore 
we were overjoyed to arrive in Japan at the moment when they 
were celebrating their victory, I had a vivid recollection of how 

1 A good many of them became the heads of big industrial concerns 

later on. 


66 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


we had celebrated the victory of Japan over the Russians a few 
weeks ago in Santiniketan. We were conscious of the epoch- 
making character of this victory for Asia and readily joined in 
the round of festivities held in Tokyo. All the parks and public 
squares were tastefully decorated with piles of guns and ammuni- 
tion captured from the enemy. Every day we would walk round 
and round these places with awe and veneration. Our regard for 
the Japanese rose to a still higher degree when we found that on 
tram-cars and other public conveyances the people, in particular 
women and old men, would leave their seats to make room for 
us, all the time making deep obeisances, because we hailed from 
the country of Buddha’s birth. We might have expected arro- 
gance after such a military victory but not this touching reve- 
rence for a spiritual ideal and it confirmed our faith in the 
unity of Asia, so nobly preached by the Japanese writer, Kakuzo 
Okakura. 

Most of my companions thought they had come far enough 
from home, and their adventures ended on reaching Japan. But 
after many an amusing attempt to get passed by the American 
authorities, the two of us who had come from Santiniketan 
managed to get steerage passages on an American Pacific liner. 
The American laws allowed only a small percentage of immi- 
grants from Asia to land on the western coast. The poor doctor 
in charge of emigration had therefore to find some excuse for 
rejecting the others. After having been thus refused on the plea 
of an eye disease, I went to consult a Japanese specialist. On 
learning the reason for my visit he laughed aloud, and said he 
would give me a prescription not for treatment but for fooling 
the American doctor. Tt was nothing but a problem of mathe- 
matics. He asked me to appear before the doctor every day — 
the man could not possibly remember all the faces as he had to 
examine thousands every day — and it was only a question of 
luck how soon I would get included in the ten per cent quota. 

I was indeed lucky to get approved on the third day. 

A third class passage in the steerage was an experience worth 
having in those days. We were herded together, twenty-eight 
in a cabin, lined with five tiers of bunks. This cabin also served 
as the dining-room. The congestion, the filth and the wretched 
food that was supplied, defy description. But the worst torture 
that we suffered during our seventeen days’ passage across the 



MY FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE U.S.A. 


67 


Pacific was the type of American men and women (there was no 
segregation of the sexes) whom we had to associate with. We 
had a few Japanese fellow-passengers also. One day a Japanese 
had inadvertently occupied the usual seat of an American at 
the dining-table. The giant of a fellow not only abused the dimi- 
nutive Japanese in the filthiest language but pulled out a knife 
and showed fight. Our amour propre was terribly hurt when 
instead of standing up to it the Japanese left the room. In a 
few moments, however, he was back with a contingent of his 
fellow-countrymen and announced that now that they were 
equal in number to the Yankees, they were prepared to fight. 
The honour of Asia was thus saved. 


My First Glimpse of the U.S.A. 

On the second day we went up to the tiny deck alloted to us 
to get a breath of fresh air. But the supercilious way in which 
the first class passengers looked down upon this sorry lot of 
humanity huddled together was more than we could bear and 
we hastened back to our hovel to nurse our wounded pride. 
During the remaining days never once did we attempt to go 
up again. It was a godsend that I had the collected edition of 
my father’s works, edited by Prof. Mohit Chandra Sen and 
published shortly before we sailed. By the time the voyage 
ended we had got almost every line by heart. We hardly knew 
when we had stopped at Honolulu, as, on account of an epide- 
mic in the islands, the passengers were not allowed to go ashore. 
A great many days after, we guessed from the conduct of our 
fellow-passengers that the end of the voyage was in sight. Trust- 
ing that at last the agony was over, one evening we packed our 
things and lay down but hardly had any sleep for the excite- 
ment of arriving at San Francisco the next morning. While it 
was still dark we crept up on deck and kept our eyes glued to 
the horizon towards which the boat was moving. A beautiful 
dawn broke with a fantail of such brilliant colours as only the 
Pacific can boast of. We soon noticed that every officer had his 
binocular steadily pointed shoreward. An ominous silence 
hovered over the ship. Whisperings and nodding of heads; then 
more binoculars brought out. Another long spell of silence. 
Those of us on deck became nervous and suspicious. With a 



68 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


lurch the boat turned round. It was then that we saw what had 
seemed a mystery a few moments ago : the charred remains of 
a few skyscrapers and the thick black clouds of smoke slowly 
spreading out along the horizon in long serpentine coils and 
smirching the brilliant sky with their foulness. The boat stopped 
before the Golden Gate — no longer the golden gate leading to 
the Queen of Cities, but the gate leading to hell if any hell on 
earth can be imagined. Where the city had stood there were now 
heaped ruins, charred corpses and bewildered and famished 
animals roving about on roads twisted out of shape. Thus we 
learnt of the great earthquake and the fire that had devastated 
the city, and a shiver of horror ran through the boat. In those 
days the wireless had not been invented and we had no previous 
warning of the disaster. This was the welcome we received from 
America, two kids hugging to our breasts a solitary letter of 
introduction to somebody at Berkeley, which had been razed 
to the dust during the previous night. 

The trains were busy transporting the fleeing population of 
the ruined city to safer places inland. The captain allowed us to 
stay on the boat for three days after which, standing long hours 
in a queue, we managed to get two berths on a train bound for 
Chicago. Somebody had told us that there was a good agricul- 
tural college at the University of Illinois. Chicago being in the 
state of Illinois, we thought the university could not be too far 
from it. When the train started T found the upper berth was 
occupied by an injured lady. During the night she died and was 
taken away. In the morning while going across the mountains 
we struck a blizzard and the train was snow-bound. The passen- 
gers got out and amused themselves playing snowballs until 
after some hours the driver whistled to us to come back. An 
ice-breaker engine had come to the rescue and cleared the tracks. 

At Chicago we enquired about the location of the State 
University and handed over to the telegraph girl a message 
addressed to the Secretary of the Y.M.C.A. requesting him 
kindly to meet two students from India arriving that day. We 
congratulated ourselves on our brain-wave. At least there would 
be somebody to receive us. There ought to be a Y.M.C.A. in 
the place and it must have a Secretary. But alas, we found no 
one who could possibly have any remote connection with the 
organization at the station at Champaign. After a few days 



COSMOPOLITAN CLUB 


69 


when we did meet the Secretary we discovered that the telegram 
was delivered to him but the message was changed to read ‘Two 
students from Indiana’. The girl at the telegraph office had 
made the correction herself doubting the existence of any place 
called India. Indiana being a neighbouring State the Secretary 
had not bothered about giving a reception to the two students 
at the station. 


Cosmopolitan Club 

The United States in 1906 cared little for the outside world. 
We found in our University just a handful of foreign students 
and these were mostly from the Philippines and Mexico. All 
of them felt ill at ease — their American fellow students being 
either too inquisitive or too indifferent. 

I tried to get the few foreigners together and started a cosmo- 
politan club. Fortunately we were able to secure the sympathy 
of some of our professors without whose help it would have 
been impossible for us to obtain a footing or any kind of status 
in the University. The one on whom we came to rely most 
was Dr. A. R. Seymour, Professor of the Romance languages. 
He not only helped the Cosmopolitan Club to get firmly estab- 
lished at the University — but all the foreign students whatever 
their nationality found a genuine friend in him. To me his 
house in Nevada Street became a real home. Mrs. Seymour’s 
motherly affection, when I was in most need of it, has remained 
a bright spot in an otherwise dull existence during the three 
years of my stay at this mid-west University. I used to go and 
chat with her whilst she washed dishes, very often lending a 
hand heedless of her warnings that glass and chinaware were 
prone to be somewhat fragile. During leisure hours she would 
listen to my readings from translations of the Indian classics. 
In return she would sometimes favour me with readings of poems 
she had herself composed. Years later when Father came to 
spend a few months at Urbana while I was working for my 
doctorate — every evening he would go to the Seymours’ house 
and read to them the essays contained in Sadhana which he 
was then writing. There was always a warm corner ready for 
him in their sitting room. My friendship with the Seymours did 
not cease with my leaving the University. I still correspond with 



70 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Mrs. Seymour whose affection and friendship for me through 
half a century remain a most prized possession. 

While on the topic of the Cosmopolitan Club, let me share 
with my readers a recent letter (July 8, 1956) I have received 
from Mrs. Seymour. 

Do you remember a youthful student from India at Illinois 
saying “Auf Wiedersehen” in 1909 at the last banquet of the 
year of the Cosmopolitan Club ? In Mr. Seymour’s files I have 
discovered letters, papers, programs which would furnish 
material for an Early History of the Cosmopolitan Club at the 
the University of Illinois. Among them is this program of the 
Banquet. I am reminded of your enthusiasm for the Club, your 
devotion and solicitude for its welfare and progress. You knew 
of the struggle to get it started right — with a Club House, a 
dedicated membership. You may not have realized, however, 
what a struggle the members had after you left. 

To resume our story : within a year the membership of the 
Cosmopolitan Club increased considerably and I was elected 
President. 

The movement in the meantime had spread to a number of 
other universities in the United States and I had to consider 
bringing them under a federation, which was afterwards named 
the Association of International Clubs. Before I left we were 
negotiating with a similar movement in Europe called the Corda 
Fraters. These Cosmopolitan or International Clubs have come 
to be a feature in the American Universities. My friend Leonard 
Elmhirst, when he was a student at Cornell, was able to get a 
handsome donation from Mrs. Dorothy Straight to build a 
Club House at the University in memory of her first husband. 
It is a magnificent building functioning as the centre for many 
social and educational activities of the University. 

The general outlook of the students — I can speak only for the 
period I was there — was extremely narrow and parochial in 
this Middle West University. There was nothing of the freedom 
of mind and spirit of adventure which is generally associated 
with Universities. It seemed strange to us that the University 
should be considered a congenial ground for the propaganda of 
missionaries and even evangelists. Once I was horrified to wit- 
ness the exploits of the evangelist Billy Sunday, notorious for 
his flamboyant methods and platform antics, at a meeting largely 



HOMEWARD BOUND 


71 


attended by students. Next day, after I had written a mild pro- 
test which the editor surprisingly printed in the daily newspaper 
of the University, the IHini, I was assailed from all quarters. 
When it was getting too hot for me and I was thinking of leav- 
ing the University, the paper published an editorial strongly 
supporting my views. This biting criticism of the attitude of the 
student community was written by a senior student — an assis- 
tant editor of the Illini by the name of Carl Van Doren. I was 
immensely pleased to get this unexpected support from a fellow 
student quite unknown to me. Long afterwards I was delighted 
to find that Carl Van Doren had become one of the foremost 
literary critics in America. 


Homeward Bound 

By the summer of 1909 I had finished my studies at the Univer- 
sity of Illinois and on my way home spent a few months in 
Europe. In London I had the unique opportunity of staying 
with Surendranath Banerjea Jn a flat in Clement’s Inn. As far 
as I remember he had come there in connection with a Press 
Conference as a representative of his newspaper the Bengalee. 
But his time was mostly taken up in meeting political leaders 
and addressing meetings to interest the British people in India. 
People of all shades of politics, especially those belonging to the 
Liberal Party, constantly visited him. Sir Henry Cotton’s son, 
H. E. A. Cotton, attached himself to Surendranath and acted 
as his secretary. The visitor that impressed me most was the 
renowned editor of the Review of Reviews , W. T. Stead. He 
belonged to that band of liberal-minded humanitarians that 
strangely enough England produced at the time when she was 
the worst oppressor of the weak and down-trodden nations of 
the world. I admired him just as much as H. W. Nevinson 
whom I met many years later. 

Surendranath received ovations wherever he spoke. I especially 
remember the dinner party given at the Westminster Hotel by 
the National Liberal Club. Surendranath was at his best when 
he replied to the address of welcome that evening. Some English 
people sitting close to me whispered that such eloquence expres- 
sed in such faultless English had never been heard in England 
since the time of Burke. He was a born orator. But he took 



72 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


great pains in preparing his speeches. I often heard him rehear- 
sing in his room in a loud voice speeches that had to be deli- 
vered the next day. Surendranath was methodical. He started 
the morning with vigorous dumb-bell exercises and then had an 
enormous breakfast. Very often my friend Kedamath Das Gupta, 
who volunteered to look after him in London, and I would have 
to go out to an A.B.C. Restaurant to appease our hunger as there 
would be nothing left on the table of the three breakfasts ordered ! 

Many years later in 1917 I came in contact with Surendranath 
in Calcutta under rather unhappy circumstances. The Congress 
was to be held in Calcutta and people wanted to show their 
gratitude to Mrs. Annie Besant for the suffering she had under- 
taken for the cause of the Indian National Movement. When 
her name was proposed for the post of President, Surendranath 
violently opposed it as his conservative feelings could not 
tolerate the idea of a woman with extremist views presiding 
over the affairs of the Congress. 

Father warmly supported her candidature and was persuaded 
to accept the Chairmanship of the Reception Committee in 
opposition to the nominee of the old guards. When the contro- 
versy was resolved with the acceptance of Mrs. Besant as the 
President Father stepped down. He attended the Congress session 
on the first day. There is a painting by Gaganendranath of 
Father reciting the poem India s Prayer at this meeting. He 
was given a tremendous ovation. 

Except at the world-famous experiment station at Rothamp- 
stead, I could not find much opportunity in England at that 
time to improve my knowledge of agricultural science. I went 
over to Germany and attended lectures at the University of 
Goettingen for a term. Apart from its reputation as a University, 
Goettingen is interesting from its association with Prince 
Bismarck. He entered the University as a student but the autho- 
rities soon discovered that it was impossible for them to enforce 
discipline on this unruly young man. When severe punishments 
failed to curb his mischievous activities he was told that he 
would not be allowed to live within the jurisdiction of the Uni- 
versity. The young Bismarck immediately built for himself a 
little cottage just across the bridge over the stream that demar- 
cated the boundary of the University, an ingenious way indeed 
of flouting authority. The same authorities later on not only 



SHELIDAH AGAIN 


73 


carefully preserved this cottage but built a tower on the top of 
a hill as a memorial to Bismarck, their most distinguished student. 

It was at Goettingen that I had the opportunity of seeing a 
duel. I had no idea that duels were still being fought at the 
beginning of the twentieth century. I was told that it was quite 
common among the students of Germany. Since it was prohi- 
bited by law the duels at Goettingen took place in an out- 
of-the-way restaurant some distance from the town. The police 
conveniently kept their eyes closed. A large hall in a barn-like 
structure adjoining the restaurant was set aside for this enter- 
tainment. It must have been considered an entertainment indeed, 
since there were galleries along the walls for seating the spec- 
tators of whom quite a few hundred turned up every week-end 
when duels would be held. A thick layer of sawdust was spread 
over the ground in the arena where stood a group of several 
pairs of duellists, their seconds and a couple of doctors. This 
room was reeking with the smell of iodoform and, as I entered, 
a duel had just begun. The duellists had chosen broad swords 
and were slashing at each other. Presently a portion of the 
scalp the size of a rupee flew off the head of one of the com- 
batants. The doctors stopped the fight and soaked the head with 
disinfectant but no sutures were made. Scars on the face and 
head were much prized by the student community. Girls were 
attracted by them — the uglier the better. The friend who had 
taken me wanted to stay on to witness a few more duels. But 
the sight of one was sickening enough for me and I beat a 
hasty retreat. 


Shelidah Again 

Towards the end of 1909 I returned home. The house at 
Shelidah was being got ready for me — I was to look after the 
estates. I could at the same time have a farm of my own and 
carry on agricultural experiments as I pleased. The prospect 
could not be better for a young man with plenty of energy. 
Hardly had I got home than Father took me out on a tour round 
the estates to make me acquainted with the people and teach 
me the details of management. It was a novel experience for 
me to travel with Father — just the two of us — in a house-boat. 
Successive bereavements and particularly the loss of Sami had 



74 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


left him very lonely and he naturally tried to pour all his 
affection on me as soon as 1 returned home. As we drifted 
along through the network of rivers so familiar to both of us, 
every evening we sat out on the deck and talked on all sorts 
of subjects. I had never talked so freely with Father before this, 
and I had to make considerable effort to break the ice. I think 
Father must have been hugely amused to hear me prattle and 
glibly repeat copybook maxims on agronomy, genetics, evolu- 
tion and such subjects as were still fresh in my mind. Most of 
the time he would listen patiently but when he did talk he told 
me about the social and economic conditions of our rural folk, 
the problems of their life and his own experience in dealing 
with them. Rarely would he talk on literature, probably think- 
ing that my training in the sciences barred me from appreciating 
the arts. Father and son never came to a more intimate under- 
standing of each other than in this winter of 1910. 

I settled down at Shelidah and led the life of a country 
gentleman. A farm was laid out, seeds of maize, clover and 
alfalfa were imported from America ; discs, harrows and such 
modem implements suitable to Indian conditions were intro- 
duced. Even a small laboratory was fitted up for soil testing. 
The highest compliment was given me by Myron Phelps 1 when 
he told me that at Shelidah he had discovered a genuinely 
successful American farm. 

As I was engaged in this pleasant occupation Father sent for 
me and proposed that I should marry Pratima, the niece of my 
cousin Gaganendranath. The wedding was celebrated in February, 
1910 in Calcutta. This was the first time a widow marriage had 
taken place in our family. 

A few years of uninterrupted happiness followed. I was kept 
busy looking after the business of the estates and the agricul- 
tural experiments in the farm while my wife continued with her 
studies with the help of Miss. Bourdette, a teacher who had 
come from the University of Illinois. This sort of country life 
among the peasantry of Bengal which was so pleasant to me 
suddenly came to an end when Father sent for me and proposed 

1 Myron Phelps, a lawyer from New York, came to visit India about 
this time and became popular amongst Indians due to his symphathetic 
attitude towards their struggle for freedom. 



SHELIDAH AGAIN 


75 


that I should go to Santiniketan and give whatever help I could 
to the school. Father felt that the burden of the Santiniketan 
institution was getting too heavy for him. My classmate Santosh 
Majumdar was already there and my brother-in-law Nagen 
Gangulee was expected back from the U.S.A. any day. All the 
three whom my Father had helped to get trained at the Univer- 
sity of Illinois were to strengthen the meagre staff of teachers 
of his school at Santiniketan. The delightful house at Shelidah 
called the ‘Kuthibari’, surrounded by a rose garden and beyond 
that the acres of farmland lusciously green during the wet 
months and bright yellow with fragrant mustard flowers in the 
winter ; the capricious river Padma ever changing its course ; 
the house-boat full of pleasant associations of the past ; the one- 
armed shikari Chamru — my faithful companion in shooting 
expeditions ; — all those things that I loved most were to be left 
behind for the barren wastelands of Santiniketan. 



Vichitra and the Art Movement in Bengal 

A raw youth fresh from a technical college in the corn-belt of 
the United States, with no pretensions whatever to aesthetic 
sensibility returned home to an atmosphere of literary and artis- 
tic endeavour and felt bewildered. He found there no trace of 
Bohemian living which might have struck a sympathetic chord 
in one hardly weaned from adolescence. Neither was there the 
garrulity of artistic parlance and the irresponsible chatter com- 
monly associated with the art-worlds of Western capitals with 
which he had become familiar en route home through Europe. 
A strange experience it was for him to come into intimate con- 
tact for the first time with persons who, while living the normal 
life of the Indian gentry, were making experiments and creating 
forms that were destined to work as a tremendous vital force 
in the renaissance of Indian Art. 

It was this supreme indifference to the value of their creative 
genius which more than anything else surprised me, nurtured 
as I had been on the pragmatic philosophy of America. Surprise 
gradually grew into wholesome awe as my feet inevitably led 
me every morning to the verandah where cousin Abanindra and 
his brothers sat working. 

To one who had been used for many years to Western ideas 
and customs it was a revelation to be drafted into the coterie 
of the artist brothers and watch their manner of work and 
even more their manner of thinking. Where was their studio ? 
Where were the easels ? There sat the three brothers, Gaganen- 
dra, Samarendra and Abanindra, on three easy chairs in a long 
verandah facing the south, and there they painted, carried on 
estate work, entertained visitors and held their court in a truly 


VICHITRA AND THE ART MOVEMENT IN BENGAL 77 

oriental atmosphere of simplicity and repose. It was here that 
the students came (Abanindranath had already retired from the 
Art School, but in the East students prefer a master to a 
school) and sat discussing problems that were puzzling their 
minds or stood behind, silently watching him work. Here also 
came friends of oriental art and art-critics to have a look at 
the latest drawings and paintings. Dealers would bring old 
miniatures, illuminated manuscripts and other priceless objets 
(F art , not so often for sale, as for expert opinion and valuation. 
Besides these, there were, of course, a medley of visitors from 
high officials to petty job seekers and always a group of hangers- 
on, who regaled the company with a constant supply of the 
latest gossip of the city. 

None of these social distractions disturbed their equanimity 
or interfered with their work. The brothers, with the exception 
of Samarendra — no less an artist but too modest to vie with 
his more gifted brothers — sat there each with a long-piped 
hookah, a bowl of water on which floated a rose, and a few 
simple painting materials beside them. It was in these surround- 
ings that I watched in amazement the making of paintings that 
have since become famous. 

Abanindra had become well-known as an artist before the 
eldest brother took up the brush. As head of the family Gaga- 
nendra’s youth was more occupied with entertaining and fulfill- 
ing the multifarious social duties appertaining to such a position 
in a joint-family of the upper classes in India. His spare time 
was taken up with photography when it was not requisitioned 
for dramatic performances. A bom actor, he had his part 
reserved in any new play that was produced in our family. 
What made him discover his talent as a painter I am not sure — 
perhaps Kakuzo Okakura and some Japanese artist friends 
might have inspired him — but about 1910 when I returned 
home, painting was still only an occasional hobby with him. He 
had not found his metier yet. My father’s Reminiscences was 
being published then in the original Bengali, and I was able to 
pursuade Gaganendranath to draw a few illustrations for the 
book. These are, I believe, the earliest of his drawings to be 
reproduced. 

It was about this time that the Indian Society of Oriental Art 
was started, as a result of the social contacts of Gaganendra 



78 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


and Abanindra with Justice Woodroffe, N. Blount, O. C. Gangoly 
and other art-lovers. The annual exhibitions consisted entirely 
of the prolific productions of the two brothers, and a few selec- 
ted paintings of their favourite pupils, Nandalal Bose, Suren 
Ganguly, Asit Haidar, Sailen Dey, Kshitin Majumdar and others. 
These exhibitions were a great feature of the winter season in 
Calcutta and served a most useful purpose as a cultural and 
social occasion, not only for that city but for the whole country, 
since people from all over India used to flock to the then capital 
during the ‘season’. Gaganendranath was the moving spirit be- 
hind this organisation and it was the charm of his personality 
that drew the elite as well as the crowd to the show. In this 
connection, I should not fail to mention Lord Carmichael and, 
later on. Lord Ronaldshay (afterwards the Marquess of Zetland), 
but for whose enlightened patronage of Indian Art, the Oriental 
Art Society could hardly have achieved the position it did. They 
not only lent their names to the Society but also persuaded the 
Government to loosen the purse-strings on its behalf. 

The artist in Gaganendra and Abanindra was not confined 
merely to their brush. Their genius covered a wide field. The 
family house in which they lived had been furnished and deco- 
rated by the preceding generation in the conventional Victorian 
style. The artists remodelled the house and started to refurnish 
it. The services of a South Indian carpenter, a master of his 
craft, were employed to execute the designs made by the artist 
brothers. The style of indoor decoration invented by them be- 
came quite the fashion later on in Calcutta. But the acme of 
there joint efforts was reached in the drawing-room — a magnificent 
example of semi-oriental treatment — decorated with the choicest 
collection of paintings and Indian art-ware, a room that has 
been the envy of connoisseurs from the world over. 

The memory of many an unforgettable evening in this room 
comes back to my mind. There would be a few lovers of art 
and music reclining in meditative poses on spacious divans, with 
lights dimmed, listening to the melodious strains of the Veena. 
On such memorable evenings I would sit in an obscure corner 
and silently watch the company which very often included such 
distinguished foreigners as the great traveller and philosopher 
Count Keyserling, that artist and friend of all artists William 
Rothenstein, the inimitable Pavlova, the great visionary Kakuzo 



VICHITRA AND THE ART MOVEMENT IN BENGAL 79 

Okakura, the art-critic Ananda Coomaraswamy, the Russian 
aristocrat and art collector Golubew, the delightful Karpeles 
sisters and that lover of art. Lord Carmichael. 

The mention of Lord Carmichael reminds me of the close 
friendship that grew up between this high official and my cousin 
Gaganendra. Lord Carmichael, who was for years the Governor 
of Bengal, left an unfortunate impression in the minds of the 
people towards the end of his rule by a series of political blun- 
ders. But those who, like my artist cousins, came to know him 
intimately could not help respecting him for his genuine under- 
standing of art and his enthusiasm for the revival of the artistic 
crafts of Bengal. Bengal cannot but remain grateful to him for 
helping the revival of the Murshidabad silk industry. The Ben- 
gal Home Industries Association was established at his sugges- 
tion and with the help of Government funds, which he placed 
generously at its disposal. No better person could have been 
chosen as Secretary to this Association than Gaganendra. The 
success of the sales depot at Hogg Street for a few years was 
entirely due to his indefatigable efforts to create an interest in 
the beautiful handicrafts of Bengal, which were dying out for 
want of patronage. 

During this period Gaganendra used to go up to Darjeeling 
quite frequently. To these summer visits we owe the magnificent 
series of Himalayan sketches. The snowy range had a most 
wonderful fascination for him, and his imagination had worked 
out an upturned face in the skylines of Kanchenjunga, which 
characterise most of the paintings that he did of these majestic 
peaks. While in the hills he used to fancy his own adaptation of 
the Tibetan robe. Thereafter this gown-like thing became the 
distinctive dress of the artist brothers, as well as of my father’s. 
Experiments with dress run in the family. 

After some time, when I had sufficiently imbibed the artistic 
atmosphere in which I found myself, my practical bent of mind 
would not remain content until I had canalised all the artistic 
talent going to waste (so it seemed to me at the time, thanks 
to my American training !) into some sort of an organisation. 
Thus came into being the Vichitra Club, which many Calcutta 
people will still remember. My cousins ungrudgingly gave their 
help. The first meeting was held in the ‘Lalbari’ with a very 
distinguished membership, Brajendra Nath Seal presiding. Cousin 



80 


<m THE EDGES OF TIME 


Surendranath had prepared the rules of the Club — if a consti- 
tution which provided for no membership, no fees, no obliga- 
tions of any kind, could be said to have any rules. Nandalal 
Bose had drawn for the club the design of a seal, in which the 
name Vichitra was calligraphed in the shape of a rural cottage. 
At the end of the meeting my father gave readings from some 
of his unpublished works. The gathering dispersed from the 
hall upstairs only to meet again in the dining-room below, 
where a sumptuous banquet had been spread. The room was 
decorated in red and gold and had the appearance of the interior 
of a Chinese pagoda. As long as the Club continued to func- 
tion, these banquets, on each occasion with a different and novel 
scheme of decoration, remained a conspicuous and attractive 
feature. 

During the nineties Count Okakura had brought with him on 
one of his many visits two young artists from Japan. They stayed 
behind as the guests of Gaganendra. While they painted, sitting 
on the ground, with the silk on which they painted spread before 
them, the whole family watched with amazement their masterly 
strokes of free-hand drawing and the dexterous use of the 
brush. One of these is now the famous leader of the Bijuitsen 
School of Painters, Taikan. Gaganendra was influenced by the 
Japanese technique as his early works show. It was this love 
for Japanese art that many years afterwards induced the Club to 
bring out again another Japanese artist, Kampo Arai, in order 
to open painting classes under its auspices. 

The Vichitra Club had all sorts of activities. During the day 
it functioned as an art school with studios where the painters, 
Nandalal Bose, Asit Kumar Haidar and Surendranath Kar 
worked at their paintings, N. K. Deval modelled figures, Mukul 
Dey made etchings, while a few students (my wife Pratima was 
one of the earliest) hovered around them. In the evenings the 
library was the main attraction. Once a week the studio would 
resolved itself into a social club of artists, writers and musicians. 
And quite frequently there would be dramatic performances or 
musical soirees. 

Very soon other activities were added. Collections were made 
of the indigenous artistic crafts of the province. A young man 
was sent out on a roving mission to collect alpana designs, 
' specimens of embroidery, pottery and basketry work from 



VICHITRA AND THE ART MOVEMENT IN BENGAL 81 

villages. The alpana designs, together with the nursery and 
Brata rhymes that Abanindra knew so well, were afterwards 
published in book form. 

During this period Gaganendra discovered a new medium— 
that of caricature — for giving expression to his fund of humour 
and satire. The few that found their way into newspapers and 
magazines established his popularity at once. The demand for 
reproductions helped to create another department of the Vichitra 
Club. A second-hand litho press was purchased and the services 
of an old Muhammedan printer were enlisted. In the morning 
Gaganendra would paint a caricature, the same afternoon would 
find him transferring it to stone slabs and then supervising the 
printing of the copies. In this way two volumes of reproduc- 
tions were published which found a ready sale. 

The Vichitra Club closed its doors when the Visva-Bharati 
began to claim more and more of our attention, and some of 
the artists, like Asit Kumar Haidar and afterwards Nandalal 
Bose and Surendranath Kar were called away to Santiniketan 
to organise an Art School there (now known as the Kala- 
Bhavana). During the few years that the Vichitra Club flouri- 
shed, it served as an important social, intellectual and artistic 
centre, for Calcutta, and contributed greatly to the cultural life 
of Bengal. It owed all its achievements to the three great perso- 
nalities — my father, Gaganendra and Abanindra. It set a unique 
example of how the combined efforts of a few men of genius 
can set tremendous creative forces at work. I have dwelt 
mainly on its achievements in the art world but its contribution 
to literature was no less. In its weekly gatherings could be 
counted almost all the literary men worth mentioning at that 
time in Bengal. All important writings from the pen of my 
father, Sarat Chandra Chatterji, Pramathanath Chaudhuri and 
others were read out here. The Sabuj Patra movement, with its 
advocacy for adopting a purer form of the spoken Bengali as 
the medium of the language of literature, and freeing it from 
undue Sanskrit influence, may be said to have had its birth in 
the Vichitra Club. 



82 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Dramas and Play-acting 

Play-acting had an important place in the social and intellectual 
life in our family residence at Jorasanko. My father was bom 
in this tradition and started quite early to write dramas and 
have them performed by members of the family, usually taking 
the leading part himself. 

His earliest play produced in this way is Balmiki Pratibha 
(The Genius of Valmiki) in 1881 when he was barely twenty. 
In the writing and staging of this play his elder brother 
Jyotirindranath not only greatly encouraged him but collabora- 
ted with him in setting tunes to the songs. The play is an 
opera, the first of its kind attempted in this country. In order to 
render the music capable of interpreting the characterization and 
the movements dramatically, the composers did not mind adap- 
ting Western modes and tunes where necessary. From the point 
of view of music it was a bold and novel experiment. Although 
the opera was composed when the author was yet in his teens 
it has since then been staged quite often and is still held in 
esteem. Misfortune seems to have attended its first performance 
in the month of February 1881 when the stage had been set up 
on the roof of the Jorasanko house. A storm made a clean 
sweep of the whole bamboo structure. The performance, never- 
theless, took place and Bankim Chandra Chatterji, the celebra- 
ted Bengali novelist, who happened to be present, referred to it 
in high terms in the pages of the Bangadarsan . Later on it was 
performed in the courtyard of our house in the presence of 
Lady Lansdowne. The cast, drawn from our own family, were 
nearly all accomplished musicians and some of them no mean 
actors. The performance proved a success, the novelty of its 
form and music giving a pleasant surprise to the elite of the 
then capital who had been invited to witness it. The only evi- 
dence of this performance we now have are two photographs of 
one of the scenes which have become fairly familiar to the pub- 
lic, having been reproduced in Father’s collected works. 

Mayor Kheld (Sport of Illusion) is the only other opera that 
Father has composed. This was published in book form in 1888. 
It is perhaps more original than Balmiki Pratibha whose theme 
is taken from the Ramayana and the music of which shows 



DRAMAS AND PLAY-ACTING 


83 


foreign influence. Mdydr Kheld was written at the request of 
Mrs. P. K. Ray for the benefit of a charitable ladies association 
known as the Sakhi Samiti, who performed it themselves for 
the first time in Bethune College ; it has since been produced 
fairly often. 

Then followed Raja-o-Rdni ( The King and the Queen) and 
Bisarjan (, Sacrifice ), dramas in the real sense. The first of these 
was staged at Birjitalao at the residence of my uncle Satyendra- 
nath. My mother was persuaded to take the part of Narayani, 
in Raja-o-Rdni , the first and only time she appeared on the stage. 

Possibly the premier performance of Bisarjan took place at 
49 Park Street, where my uncle Satyendranath had moved from 
his previous residence at Birjitalao. It is interesting to note that 
His Highness Bir Chandra Manikya, the then Maharaja of 
Trippera, who took a keen interest in the play, the theme of 
which has reference to an episode in the ancient history of his 
own dynasty, was present at this performance. The well-known 
photograph of Father as Raghupati bemoaning the death of 
Jayasingha seems to have been taken on this occasion. All the 
above events occurred before I was bom. I have only a very 
vague recollection of the later performance of Bisarjan when it 
was produced by the Sangit Samaj in its club house at Corn- 
wallis Street. 

Raja-o-Rdni has the distinction of being a much-performed 
and much-transformed play, both in public and private, inas- 
much as it has been produced under the three distinct names 
and forms of Raja-o-Rdni, Bhairaber Boli and Tapati. Akshoy 
Mazumdar, of comic fame, the stalwart of many a comedy and 
the first and foremost robber in Bdlmiki-Fratibhd just missed 
turning pathos into bathos in a specially moving scene of Raja- 
o-Rdni by his usual comical grimaces, and yet his one grievance 
was that he had never been given the tragic part he could have 
done justice to ! 

Speaking of acting and singing, it is difficult not to recall 
the poetic and pathetic figure of my cousin Abhi, who acted 
superbly and sang so sweetly in Mdydr Kheld, and died so 
young and full of prdmise. 

Unfortunately, I have to rely on hearsay in these matters, as 
I do not happen to be old enough to be able to recall any 
details regarding the performances of the above four pieces 



84 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


except the bare facts already mentioned. My recollection goes 
back only to the early days of the Asrama, when Father began 
to write plays suitable for being staged by the teachers and 
students of Santiniketan. They are therefore a class by them- 
selves, a distinct departure from his previous dramas, which 
were romantic and psychological in treatment. The three plays — 
Sdradotsab , Achaldyatan and Phdlguni — may be classified as 
belonging to the Santiniketan series. Apart from their intrinsic 
value and distinctive flavour, they have an added interest inas- 
much as they form a link between the classical series ( Rajd-o - 
Rani and Bisarjan ) and the allegorical if not mystic series of 
dramas that followed — Dak-ghar, Raja , Tapati, etc. Although in 
the Santiniketan series of plays the theme is simple, an allego- 
rical treatment of the whole subject has crept in. Another charac- 
teristic, bom of necessity, is the complete absence of female 
characters in these three plays. 

I should think the tradition of play acting at Santiniketan had 
its beginning even before Sdradotsab was written, when Bisarjan 
was staged by the Asrama in the winter of 1902. We had at 
that time neither any stage nor any of the paraphernalia con- 
nected with it. But the want of wordly goods was amply com- 
pensated for by ardour and enthusiasm. There were very few 
students then, so the three of us — Santosh Majumdar, Nayan 
Chatterji and myself — had to take some of the leading parts. 
But as the rehearsals progressed the teachers got alarmed and 
complained to Father that if the project were not dropped at 
once there was no chance of our passing the Entrance Examina- 
tion which was drawing near. But our joy knew no bounds 
when Father turned a deaf ear to their importunities and the 
rehearsals continued merrily as before. I may mention here that 
such opposition from teachers recurred ever since with mono- 
tonous regularity, only to be met with the inevitable fate it 
deserved from Father. 

The ramshackle shed behind the Library, used as the dining 
hall, was selected for the stage and auditorium. Although for 
the making of the stage there were only a few rickety bedsteads, 
an artist from Calcutta was requisitioned to paint the scenes. He 
had a facile brush and could wield it to produce bizarre effects, 
not unlike the painted rags used for scenes, the stock-in-trade 
of professional touring theatres. The man was something of a 



DRAMAS AND PLAY-ACTING 


85 


character and was universally known by his Bengali initials ‘Ha- 
Cha-Ha\ He figured in many a story that went the round of 
our Jorasanko houses, and I believe cousin Gaganendranath 
drew a caricature of him. He has also figured in one of the 
stories in Father’s Galpa-Salpci. But as youngsters, far from be- 
ing amused, we were duly impressed by his florid art and got 
busy setting up the stage. The cots were hauled in from the 
dormitory and Ha-Cha-Ha’s backgrounds were solemnly hung 
up. Despite the crude setting, the performance was not unsuccess- 
ful. It at least helped Father to pick out some promising material 
from amongst the amateur actors. Nayan was splendid as 
Nakshatramanikya. A very gifted actor, he unfortunately did not 
live long enough to help Father in the staging of his later plays. 
Jagadananda Babu, who appeared in the role of Raghupati, 
was of course marked out immediately as an asset. He was 
never spared from any performances as long as he lived. 

When Sdradotsab was produced the character of the Asrama 
had changed considerably. A new dormitory had been built 
with a spacious hall which lent itself so well for performances 
that it became known as the Natyaghar. It was not much of 
a hall, with its low ceiling ; but it seemed a great improvement 
on the dining shed. There were about a hundred students and 
the staff too had increased proportionately. So there were lots 
of people to choose from and the cast was of a much higher 
standard. Kshitimohan Sen, Ajit Chakravarty, Pramatha Bisi 
and Tapan Chatterji were valuable additions. Father himself 
selected the actors after putting them through hard tests. In those 
days he preferred to hold the rehearsals in an open place and 
did not mind the whole Asrama looking on and listening. As a 
result, the rehearsals of plays and of music were of great edu- 
cative value to the whole community and not to the participants 
only. I am sure this was the most effective method by which 
Father was able to infuse the whole Asrama with the spirit of 
art and music. There were no regular classes for the teaching 
of music, and yet almost everybody could sing ; music was 
in the air as it has ever been since. I do not wish to claim 
that everybody could act as well, nevertheless it is true that in 
a very short time Father had a large assortment of talent to draw 
upon, whenever he wanted to produce a play. It is a pity that 
this open-air system of holding rehearsals had to be discarded 



86 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


later on when the Asrama lost its homogeneity and visitors be- 
came frequent. Our students could no longer profit by watch- 
ing the intensive process of training the amateur actors under- 
went under Father’s direct guidance. 

Saradotsab breathed the spirit of Santiniketan and its setting 
idealised the character of its surrounding landscape in the 
autumn. Those who took part in the play found such kinship 
with the parts they were rendering that they came quite natural 
to them. The audience, a few of whom had come from Calcutta 
on invitation, were charmed with the spontaneity and joie de 
vivre that characterised the acting. 

Father felt greatly encouraged by the success of Saradotsab , 
which was followed by Prayaschitta , Raja and Achaldyatan in 
rapid succession. It became almost a custom to get up a per- 
formance at the end of each term. More and more friends were 
attracted from Calcutta to come and see them. It was a prob- 
lem to accommodate them. Father used to get quite excited and 
would worry himself over the details of the arrangements made 
for their comfort. 

Prayaschitta is the dramatised version of the novel Bouthdku- 
rdinir Hat and as such is one of Father’s earliest productions 
and yet, strangely enough, it had never before been put on the 
stage. The success of the performance at Santiniketan therefore 
greatly pleased him. This perhaps explains the somewhat odd 
juxtaposition of this play between Saradotsab and Achaldyatan 
which belong to such an entirely different school of drama. 
Prayaschitta also happens to be one of those plays which have 
been remodelled several times and printed under different names. 

When Rdjd was staged in 1911, I was staying at Shelidah 
and could not be present. The performance was of a high 
order. Father had achieved the most difficult task of getting 
together and training a group of artists, who could not only 
give him able support but were infused with a common spirit. 
Such a happy combination rarely occurs and I know of only the 
Moscow Art Theatre and the Irish Theatre movements which 
can be compared with it. In both of these enterprises, as at 
Santiniketan, it was not the individual artist so much as the 
effect produced by the spirit that moved the whole group of actors 
which impressed the audience and convinced them of the since- 
rity of the effort and gave them complete artistic satisfaction. 



DRAMAS AND PLAY-ACTING 


87 


In Raja the audience was enthralled by the artistic nature of 
the performance, but there was some confusion with regard to 
the meaning of the play in their minds. As a matter of fact this 
feeling prevailed in the literary coteries in Calcutta for several 
years, and the impression gathered strength that dramas written 
by Father during this period did not conform to the prevailing 
literary standards, that their symbolism was confusing and, 
above all, that they lacked dramatic movement. Repeated per- 
formances, more than anything else, proved to be the best ans- 
wer to this criticism. 

Achalayatan was staged at Santiniketan in 1914 on the occa- 
sion of a reception given to C. F. Andrews. Both Saradotsab and 
Achalayatan gave scope not only to grown-up actors but to the 
young pupils as well. The natural ease with which these two 
groups mingled on the stage was largely due to the healthy rela- 
tionship that existed between the teachers and students at Santi- 
niketan. Jagadananda Babu again scored a hit as Mahapan- 
chak, and so did Dinendranath, who became indispensable not 
only as actor but as leader of the choir. Kshitimohan Sen’s 
appearance on the stage as Thakurda was greatly appreciated. 
Father had taken the part of Acharya. What gave a piquancy 
to the occasion was the inclusion of W. W. Pearson amongst the 
Sonpangsu crowd. His otherwise perfect Bengali stumbled on the 
words Aar khensarir ddl and this produced a ripple of laughter 
amongst the audience. Father liked foreigners who came to live 
at Santiniketan to share in all our activities. He took special 
care to find a place for them in the performances. Therefore it 
is not surprising that W. W. Pearson, Leonard Elmhirst, Dr. 
and Mrs. Harry Timbres, Haimanti Chakravarty and many 
others have appeared on the stage on different occasions. 

The first of the series of performances which became a regular 
feature in the social and cultural life of Calcutta for many years 
was Phdlguni. The play was first staged at Santiniketan soon 
after it was written in the spring of 1915. To those who heard 
the singing of Ogo dakhin hawd (O South Wind) by two of the 
youngest boys of the Asrama, every return of spring will bring 
back the memory of their fresh sweet voices. To harmonise with 
the spirit of the play, which was different in subject matter and 
in technique from the ordinary kind of drama, the stage-settings 
and the decor had necessarily to break away from the current 



88 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


traditions. In all the three plays — Saradotsab , Achctlayatan and 
Phalguni — when staged at Santiniketan painted scenes had been 
discarded. Naturalistic settings had been introduced without any 
definite attempt at artistry. Phalguni gave a better scope to 
this kind of stage than the other two plays. The setting was an 
elaborate garden with real trees, flowers and rustic seats with a 
swing thrown in. Draperies came at a later stage, when attempts 
to introduce artistic effects became more conscious on the part 
of those who took up the responsibility of stage-decoration. 

Towards the end of winter in the following year (1916), imme- 
diately after Maghotsab, when as usual Father had conducted 
the divine service and Santiniketan boys had been taken down 
to sing in the choir, it was decided to repeat the performance 
of Phalguni in Calcutta. The dire need of helping the famine- 
stricken people of Bankura made Father hurry on with the 
rehearsals, so that the proceeds of the performance could be 
sent to the Relief Committee. 

At that time I was staying in Calcutta carrying on the work 
of the Vichitra Club, and naturally the management of the 
performance fell on my shoulders. Santiniketan was giving a 
public performance for the first time. The great responsibility 
of such an undertaking, added to my inexperience, made me 
extremely nervous, particularly on the first day when the box- 
office opened with hardly any appreciable sale of tickets. That 
evening I gathered together a bunch of our old boys who were 
then scattered in different colleges in Calcutta, and told them to 
spread the news to those of their friends who wanted to see the 
play that they must get the tickets the first thing next morning. 
As a result, there was rush for places on the following day and 
every seat was sold, although the prices were unusually high. 
On the evening of the performance people paid as much as 
Rs. 100/- for standing-room. We were able to send Rs. 8000/- 
to the Relief Committee after all the expenses had been paid. 
Although all our subsequent public performances have been 
well patronised, Phalguni , I believe, still holds the record as far 
as box-office returns are concerned. 

Father’s creative mind could never find pleasure in repetition. 
Invariably he would make alterations and additions to the plays 
whenever they were about to be performed. Such modifications 
would continue till the last day of the rehearsals and even in 



DRAMAS AND PLAY-ACTING 


89 ' 

between successive nights of the performance much to the cons- 
ternation of the actors. It would have made a most interesting 
collection if all the stage-copies of the plays had been preserved. 

It was therefore quite to be expected that Phalguni as staged 
in Calcutta would be different from what was performed at 
Santiniketan a year back. At the last moment, while the rehear- 
sals were still going on, he wrote a prelude called Bairagya - 
Sddhan , which required an entirely new set of actors. The rea- 
son for writing this piece of introduction was possibly his 
apprehension that the public might not readily understand the 
significance of the new style of drama he was going to present 
to them. It may also have been that he wished to draw upon 
the histrionic talents of his nephews Gaganendra, Samarendra 
and Abanindranath. The parts seemed to have been specially 
designed to suit their talents. What an ornamental and romantic 
background this by-play gave to the whole piece ! 

The stage was set up in the courtyard of our family house. 
Nandalal Bose and Surendranath Kar, under the guidance of 
Gaganendranath, helped with the scenic representations. With 
only a few touches of realism here and there, the setting of the 
stage was mainly suggestive — a definite advance on the natura- 
listic get-up so far attempted at Santiniketan. The scene that 
moved the audience most deeply was the figure of the blind 
Baul moving towards the dark cave singing Dhire Bandhugo 
Dhire. In 1916 Father still had a resonant voice and as he dis- 
appeared behind the scenes, his voice dying away with the last 
words, the audience could hardly control themselves. The songs 
are the life of this play, and the singing on this occasion was 
superb, with Father, Dinendranath, Ajit Chakravarty and the 
choir of Santiniketan boys as performers. I do not think i have 
ever heard Ajit Chakravarty sing so well as he did that eve- 
ning, specially the song Ami jabo nd go Amni Chole. The success 
of this performance in Calcutta left no doubt in Father’s mind 
as to the standard reached by the Santiniketan school of actors. 
Its financial possibilities had also been discovered. 

There is a long gap of several years before Phalguni was 
followed by any other performance on a public stage by the 
Santiniketan party of actors. This was perhaps due to the 
demands made upon Father by the Vichitra Club in Calcutta 
which had been started about this time, followed by his absence 



90 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


in Europe for a long period. In 1917 he was busy rehearsing 
the play Ddk-ghar ( The Post Office ), this time not at Santiniketan 
but in Calcutta. Santiniketan contributed one of its youngest 
students to take the part of Amal ; otherwise most of the 
characters were selected from Calcutta and the rehearsals as well 
as the performances were held at the Vichitra Hall. The play 
Ddk-ghar is almost lyrical in quality, its mystic philosophy lies 
concealed in very simple and poetic language. It is short and 
the characters are few. No word in it is redundant and not a 
sentence without significance. Only true artists and accomplished 
actors can do justice to this play. And such a group, all of 
whom seemed perfectly fitted for the parts they played, was 
luckily found without difficulty. Father naturally chose the parts 
of Gaffer Watchman and the Fakir for himself, and Abanindra- 
nath took the dual part of Physician and Village Headman, 
while Gaganendranath appeared as Madhab, Dinendranath as 
the Fakir’s companion and Asit Haidar as the Curd-seller. The 
choice of the boy Ashamukul as Amal was providential ; he 
seemed to have been bom for that part, The only feminine cha- 
racter in the drama — the little playmate of Amal — was acted 
with perfection by Abanindranath’s youngest daughter Her last 
plaintive call for Amal when he lay dead with the long expec- 
ted letter of the Postman in his hands, closed the drama with 
a pathos that perhaps the author himself had not dared to con- 
ceive possible. 

The stage was set up at one end of the Vichitra Hall, leaving 
enough room for only about one hundred and fifty persons to 
make the audience. The arrangement could not have been better. 
Many of the delicate nuances of the play would have been lost 
in a less intimate atmosphere. The conception of the stage was 
entirely Gaganendranath’s. It was novel and daring. A cottage 
with a real thatched roof and bamboo walls was erected by him 
on the stage platform. The decorations were simple but artistic 
as only the eye of a connoisseur could select and apply with 
sure effect. 

The performance was meant to be a private show for the 
benefit of the members of the Vichitra Club, but it was such a 
unique treat and people were so eager to see it that it had to be 
repeated several times. After every show when I wanted to pull 
•down the stage, a demand was made for another repeat perfor- 



DKAMAS AND ^LAY-ACUNU :7i 

mance and thus Amal’s three-walled cottage remained a fixture 
in the Vichitra Hall for many weeks. I believe the seventh and 
last performance was given for the entertainment of the dele- 
gates of the Indian National Congress then being held in Calcutta. 
After the session of the Congress had concluded all the distin- 
guished members including the grand old lady-President, Mrs. 
Annie Besant, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Mahatma 
Gandhi, and Lokmanya Tilak came to see the play at our house. 
From the point of view of dramatic representation, I can un- 
hesitatingly say that no other play so far attempted ever gave 
such complete satisfaction to the author, the producers, actors 
and the audience. The combination of histrionic art and stage- 
craft had for once reached an acme of perfection. 




Pareshnath 

Vichitra held me in Calcutta for a few years until the call 
from Santiniketan could not be resisted and I had to go and 
settle down there for good. There was a brief interval, how- 
ever, when fresh from the social and intellectual activities of 
the Vichitra I sought a wholesale change of environment and 
occupation. I plunged into a business enterprise, a motor engi- 
neering concern, which, true to family tradition, did not prove 
a financial success. But as long as it lasted it gave me some 
satisfaction in that the business afforded me the pleasure of 
indulging in my hobby — motoring. I had a passion for speed 
and for trying out new models of cars. The business gave me 
plenty of excuse to go on frequent motoring trips. Chotanagpur 
became a favourite haunt. This part of the country was still 
wild and unspoiled. Its innumerable hills and undulating valleys, 
its rivers, which became rushing torrents during the rains and 
trickling streams of sparklingly clear water in the dry season, 
its extensive Sal and Mohua forests alive with wild animals — 
greatly attracted me. 

Foolishly wandering about in the dry undulating plains of this 
country during one summer, and getting boiled in the process, 
we could not help putting on the brakes as the refreshingly 
green peak of the Pareshnath hill rose in front of us. This 
solitary hill rising suddenly to four thousand feet amidst scatte- 
red hillocks, which seem but pygmies in comparison, is an 
anomaly for which I do not know if local geologists have a 
ready explanation, but certainly it baffles the mind of any tra- 
veller who happens to pass within its range. It rises clear above 
the surrounding plains to a sharp point with only one break, 
an elongated spur tojvards its base. For majestic beauty it can 



PARESHNATH 


93 


hardly be beaten, its solitariness defying any attempt at com- 
parison. And yet the proportions are so nicely balanced that 
to an unwary wayfarer the top seems within easy reach. At 
least it did not deter us from dismounting from the car and, 
without any preparation whatsoever, straightway beginning the 
climb. 

The Jain priest in the dharamshala , where the footpath took 
its first leap up through the tropical jungle covering the lower 
ridges, must have felt amused at the nonchalant daring of these 
tourists, but it did not prevent him from doing a kindly act in 
offering us a papaya as large as a water-melon. The gift hardly 
provoked a smile of gratitude from the recipients at the time, 
and the burden was accepted with the minimum grace deman- 
ded by the exigencies of etiquette. His afterthought, and an act 
of undoubted piety as it turned out to be, in sending after us 
four coolies with a charpoy for my wife, the only lady of the 
party, was more appreciated. 

Up and up we climbed through the jungle. The papaya was 
soon consumed. A few pilgrims hurrying back to reach the 
monastery in the valley below before darkness set in, warned 
us of the difficulties in store for us. An old woman caught hold 
of my hands and with tears in her eyes begged of us to desist 
from such a foolhardy adventure. But young blood would listen 
to no such warnings. Soon we four, with the coolies, were the 
only human species left with the ancient moss-covered Sal trees 
towering above our heads, as the sun in a haze of amber- 
coloured dust slowly dipped below the horizon in a distant 
valley of the Hazaribagh district. As darkness set in, indefinable 
noises of the hidden night life of the forest filtered through to 
our ears. To drown their fears an occasional cry of ‘Ram, Ram’ 
from the doolie-bearers would go forth into the empty sky and 
not even an echo would be heard to reassure them. Worn out 
and subdued in spirit, at last we reached the pilgrims’ rest 
house on a narrow ridge beneath the summit. The house was 
securely locked. Some dry grass and a few logs kept a fire go- 
ing outside in a clearing and we lay down and slept till the 
rays of the morning sun mercilessly beat on our drowsy eyelids 
and roused us. There we were perched on the top of the world 
— but still higher rose the spire of the majble temple of Paresh- 
nath, the Saint whom the Jains worship, glittering in the sun. 



94 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


We dragged our aching limbs across the long flight of steps 
eager to see the riches of the temple hall. We stepped into a 
room spotlessly clean, devoid of any gaudiness, dazzling in its 
chaste whiteness like a widow after her morning bath, empty 
except for a book of sayings of the holy man. Thus we were 
left alone in that empty hall in the seclusion of a solitary moun- 
tain peak, every stone of which was a mute but irrefutable wit- 
ness to man’s ever-ascending spiritual aspiration. 


Giridih 

The Pareshnath episode had left a lasting impression on my 
mind. It was probably the lure of this solitary peak which led 
my steps to the neighbouring town of Giridih years later for 
spending a long vacation. 

Amongst my old letters which a kind friend had copied out 
and sent me I found one dealing with this coal and mica town. 
As a piece of description with plenty of local colour the follow- 
ing extracts might be of some interest : 

Giridih 
Sept. 1, 1936 


My dear Mrs. Seymour, 

Our villa is on the edge of a little town quite in the centre of 
the mining district of Bihar. A ridge separates the residential 
part from the coalfields and the mica mines are further away in 
the hills. A turbulent hill stream winds along at the bottom of 
the slope on which our house rests and skirting a bare granite 
mound is lost to view. Patches of red laterite, barely covered by 
grass, intervene* between the hill and the stream. And wherever 
the land is broken by water-courses, terraces of young rice- 
shades of pale yellow and emerald green — climb down to the 
edge of the water. In the distance beyond the river are clumps 
of dark green mango trees, arranged as in a park, on a wide 
stretch of rolling ground. On this bank at the top of the ridge, 
where the ricefields end, not daring to go any higher, is a forest 
with tall and slim Sal trees, defying with aristocratic indifference 
the vandalism of mean-minded men. I can see some white specks 
on the uninviting boulders and rocks — undoubtedly the nimble- 
footed cows of the village nestling on the slope of the hill, 
vainly trying to pick a few blades of grass and looking despair- 
ingly on the lusciously green rice plants below. Right in front of 



GIRIDIH 


95 


me a man with a primitive plough and a pair of patient buffaloes, 
is going round and round on a tiny plot which looks hardly 
larger than a praying carpet from here. On another terrace which 
has just been ploughed a man is sowing seeds, — a typical Millet 
composition. 

From the verandah I gaze upon this landscape every day — the 
sharp bend of the river with the muddy stream passing between 
silvery sand-banks thrown up on each side ; the solitary rock 
standing in the background like a monument, celebrating no 
hero of any sanguine battle but a mere whim of nature ; the 
peaceful ricefields descending by easy steps the undulating ground ; 
and the stately Sal trees standing there like sentinels on the 
watch — but how changeful, never the same any hour of the day* 
subtle changes for the eyes only of the patient observer and the 
lover of beauty ! A bright morning sun dazzles the eye with the 
contrast of brilliant colours in the foreground while the faint 
horizon glimmers in the distance. In a moment a passing cloud 
completely changes the value of colours and gives an intimate 
feeling bringing everything — the hills and the trees and the 
river — so close to oneself. A woman with an earthen pot poised 
carelessly on her head walks along the zigzag paths to the river- 
side, quite unconscious of the interest she creates. 

As we are on the fringe of the settlement, we can enjoy all 
this. But when we go to see some friends in the heart of the 
town we find nothing but brick and mortar houses of all des- 
criptions — pigeon-hole, match-box, X’mas-cake-like ugly struc- 
tures crowded together neck to neck along narrow lanes sur- 
rounded by solid walls, giving an unmistakable appearance of a 
big jail to the whole town. And these jail-khanas, we are told, 
are the pleasure houses of the worried people of Calcutta seek- 
ing refuge in the peace of the countryside ! 

Another day we go further and penetrate into the business 
quarter and the mining area that lies behind the town. Doing 
formerly a brisk business in coal and mica there are plenty of 
Marwaris, living huddled together in mean-looking quarters with 
filth and dirt around them. Land is fairly cheap here but they 
are parsimonious of God’s light and air just as they are of more 
material objects. Crossing the main railway line which spreads 
out its tentacles in every direction wherever a derrick is visible, 
we come right into the coal area. Hills and valleys with rivulets 
running through them are still there but gone are the Sal forests. 
How enchanting the country must have looked then ! The Sal 
trees have been replaced by ugly derricks, now mostly abandon- 
ed, chimneys belching out smoke and pumps converting every 
depression into dirty quagmires. There are not many persons to 
be seen here, but, I understand there is a whole population of 
nearly ten thousand who never see the sun, sweating below ground 
in grime and coal dust during the day time and coming up when 



96 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


it is dark only to drown their miserable existence in drink 
„,7. e retu f n h ° me w ?th a sigh of relief. Relief ? Yes, but we 
wonder why the smiling ricefields against the sombre back- 

^ii Sa f ? rest or the fcughing rivulet embracing the 
dark rocky hill no longer bring the same joy to our eyes and 
soothe the mmd as before. 



With Father in London 


After the passing away of my mother in 1902 Father took very 
little care of his health. He wrote incessantly, very often skip- 
ping meals in order to gain more time for literary work. More- 
over, at this period, he plunged for a few years into a variety 
of public activities, mainly political. Temperamentally he was 
unsuited for such work, it jarred on him and eventually brought 
on a reaction. Besides these there were the many petty demands 
made upon him by the Santiniketan school. The worries of a 
growing educational institution taxed not only his time and 
energy but his slender financial resources as well. As a result 
of this strain, his health began to deteriorate, and in spite of 
the legacy of a splendid constitution, it broke down during the 
year 1912. Doctors and friends prevailed upon him to take a 
long sea-voyage and visit Europe for treatment and an opera- 
tion, if necessary. 

Passages were obtained on a boat sailing from Calcutta to 
London. The evening before the boat sailed there was a party 
at Sir Ashutosh Chaudhuri’s palatial residence, where a perfor- 
mance of Father’s operatic play Balmiki Pratibha was given. 
Preparations had been going on for a long time and Dinendra- 
nath had been chosen to play the part of Balmiki. Father, of 
course, had to be present. We came back late at night. Instead 
of going to bed Father sat down to write letters for the remain- 
der of the night. In the early hours of the morning we found 
him to our dismay on the verge of collapse. Doctors had to 
be hurriedly summoned. All our luggage had been sent on to 
the boat the previous evening. A big crowd of friends had 
gathered at the Chandpal Ghat jetty to see him off. Their sur- 



98 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


prise could well be imagined when the boat left with our be- 
longings but the owners were not to be seen. 

I believe Father did not relish the idea of having to undertake 
a voyage to Europe at the bidding of doctors and resisted in 
his own way our attempts to persuade him to do so. This was 
not the first and only incident of the kind. His reaction to any 
kind of authoritative suggestion took peculiar and sometimes 
humorous turns. Many an interesting story might be told by 
people who have come up against the quite unexpected streak 
of stubbornness in Father’s nature. 

After his serious illness the doctors insisted that Father should 
take a complete rest and try to improve his health before under- 
taking the journey to Europe. Father could think of no better 
place for recouping his health and spirit than Shelidah — his 
favourite retreat of earlier years. As he was forbidden any strenu- 
ous intellectual work, he thought it would be enjoyable to occupy 
his time by trying to translate some of his poems into English. 
The immediate incentive, if I remember aright, came from en- 
couraging remarks made by Ramsay MacDonald, to whom, 
during his visit to Santiniketan a few months earlier, translations 
of a few stray writings that had appeared in the Modern Review 
were shown by Ajit Kumar Chakravarty — then a teacher at 
Santiniketan. Previous to this Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and 
Jagadish Chandra Bose had also encouraged Father to have his 
works translated into English. 

Father was very glad to have fhe opportunity of returning to 
Shelidah. At the time he did not, of course, realise that this 
would be practically his last visit. I think he did pay another 
visit many years later, but not for long. However, this time he 
went there alone, and had the Kuthibari all to himself. He 
would pass the whole day in the tiny study perched on the roof 
of the house from where he had an uninterrupted view on one 
side, of field after field of mustard in blossom shining like mol- 
ten gold and filling the air with its sweet fragrance, and on the 
other side, of vast stretches of sand-banks with the silvery water 
of the majestic Padma now shrunken into a thin streak. There 
was no one to disturb the quiet of such peaceful pastoral sur- 
roundings except an occasional visit from a Vaishnavi 1 whom 

1 A female devotee belonging to the Vaishnava sect. 



WITH FATHER IN LONDON yy 

he has immortalized in Sadhana and other writings. The ease 
with which this illiterate woman talked about philosophy and 
religion and her simple and devout faith moved Father deeply. 

This return to the haunt of the best years of his creative life 
and the pleasant languor of convalescence stimulated by his con- 
versations with the Vaishnavi must have had something to do 
with the selection of the poems and also with the manner of 
rendering them into English. The English version of Gitanjali is 
not, as many suppose it is, a poem for poem translation of the 
original Bengali book of that name. The translation draws upon 
ten different books although about half the poems are from the 
Bengali Gitanjali itself. It was the utter simplicity of the language 
in the English translation subtle in its artlessness which, I believe, 
moved Yeats so strongly. I have a feeling that the English tran- 
slation reflects in some strange way the spirit of those days that 
he spent at Shelidah. It is as though the poems were reborn in 
another garb ; they were not mere translations. 

Father returned from Shelidah somewhat improved in health 
and we made another attempt to take him to England. This 
time we did succeed and embarked on a P and O boat from 
Bombay on May 27, 1912. Although on my way home from the 
U.S.A. I had spent some time in Europe I hardly knew the 
country and my wife was making her first voyage abroad. So, 
we made a very inefficient pair of companions to Father on this 
journey. Our responsibilities were made heavier by having to 
chaperon a student of Santiniketan going to Harvard for his 
education. Fresh from school, his unconventional manners were 
a source of much worry and embarrassment to all of us. Shoes 
were a constant source of irritation to him — he would very 
often cast them off and walk about the deck on bare feet as he 
was used to at Santiniketan. Knives and forks to him had much 
better utility than for eating. His excitement knew no bounds 
when one afternoon while everybody was having a nap he spied 
a woman entering Father’s cabin and helping herself to some 
mangoes. Knowing that Father was very fond of mangoes we 
had brought a basket of Alfonsos and these were kept in his 
cabin. The delicious smell coming out of the open door must 
have proved too tempting to the lady. 

After the usual uninteresting life on a steamer, we found 
ourselves one evening in London. Thos. Cook had arranged 



100 ON THE EDGES OF TIME 

rooms for us in a Bloomsbury hotel. We took the Tube from 
Charing Cross station. This was our first experience of under- 
ground travelling and it left us completely bewildered. I was 
carrying my father’s attache case, which contained among other 
papers the manuscript of the English translations later published 
as Gitanjali and The Gardener. When on the next day Father 
wanted to call on William Rothenstein and asked for the manus- 
cript, the leather case was found to be missing. With my heart 
in my mouth I hastened to the Left Luggage Office. One can 
imagine my relief, when at last I discovered the lost property 
there. Since then I have often wondered what shape the course 
of events might have taken if the manuscript of Gitanjali had 
been lost through my negligence. 

We felt stranded and lonely in London, as most foreigners 
do on visiting that seemingly inhospitable city for the first time. 
We have never during our subsequent extensive travels experi- 
enced such a feeling of being complete outcasts in any other 
part of the world, as we did in those days, living in the midst 
of the teeming millions of this British capital. But London 
grows on one with years. We even came to like its outwardly 
drab and uninteresting atmosphere in time. The first few weeks, 
however, were extremely painful to one so sensitive to his sur- 
roundings as Father was. This was not his first visit to England. 
As a student he had lived in London. He had also spent a 
four-month ‘furlough’ with my second uncle and Loken Palit in 
1890. But it was such a long time ago that all associations had 
completely faded from his memory and no former acquaintances 
could be traced. We hardly knew anybody except Mr. Rothen- 
stein, whom Father had met when he was in Calcutta about a 
year before. He warmly welcomed us and soon began to intro- 
duce Father to artists and literary friends of his. Although an 
artist, Rothenstein had a very wide circle of friends amongst 
the literary circles in England. He had at one time or another 
drawn or painted most of the people that counted in politics, 
art, or literature. Moreover, he was a brilliant conversationalist, 
which helped to attract intellectuals to him. Father had simply 
to mention such names as Yeats, Masefield, H. G. Wells, Stop- 
ford Brooke, Hudson, bfevinson, Evelyn Underhill, and in a few 
days he would find himself sitting with them over the lunch or 
tea-table. Very often Father would be asked to the studio where. 



WITH FATHER IN LONDON 


101 


while Rothenstein painted. Father would talk with his sitters. 
This was how he met Colonel Lawrence of Arabia, before the 
latter became such a romantic figure. Rothenstein at this time 
had received a commission from the Government to paint some 
large-size Indian scenes for the House of Commons. As the 
principal standing figure in a representation of the Banaras 
Ghats, he had selected Kalimohan Ghose from Santiniketan who 
was visiting England at the time, and whose profile he greatly 
admired. 

London was then truly the hub of the intellectual and artistic 
life of England and Hampstead Heath a regular colony of 
writers and artists. The aftermath of the Victorian period was 
still producing men of no mean order. There was an atmosphere 
of intellectual virility, artistic endeavour and in general an opti- 
mistic outlook. The English people were supposed to be looking 
after the welfare of the world and therefore everything seemed 
to go well. Political, social and economic problems were faced 
with fearless confidence, even with complacency. The world was 
theirs, and it was soon to be turned into a paradise. A fantastic 
dream, no doubt, and how unreal was soon to be proved, bu(t 
yet a dream that moved their best men to sincere and ardent 
efforts with an enthusiasm that one could not help admiring. 

The historic evening at Rothenstein’s, when Yeats read out 
the Gitanjali poems in his musical, ecstatic voice to a choice 
group of people like Ernest Rhys, Alice Meynell, Henry Nevin- 
son, Ezra Pound, May Sinclair, Charles Trevelyan, C. F. Andrews 
and others gatherd in the drawing-room ; the almost painful 
silence that followed the recitation ; the flood of appreciative 
letters that poured in the next day ; the developments that led 
to the publication of the book by the India Society — that beau- 
tiful edition which very soon afterwards fetched high prices at 
Christie’s ; and the immediate acceptance of Father as one of 
the greatest poets of the age by the English public are well- 
known. It may, however, be interesting to record here the impres- 
sions of C. F. Andrews who wrote : 

I walked back along the side of Hampstead Heath with H. W. 
Nevinson but spoke very little. I wanted to be alone and think 
in silence of the wonder and glory of it all. When I had left 
Nevinson I went across the Heath. The night was cloudless and 
there was something of the purple of the Indian atmosphere 



102 ON THE EDGES OF TIME 

about the sky. There all alone I could think of the wonder of it : 

On the seashore of endless worlds, children meet 

On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children. 

It was the haunting, haunting melody of the English, so simple, 
like all the beautiful sounds of my childhood, that carried me 
completely away. I remained out under the sky far into the 
night, almost till dawn was breaking. 

The room where we were seated looked out upon the myriad 
evening lights of the great city of London which lay below... I 
sat at the window in the dusk of the long summer evening as 
Rabindranath’s poems were read slowly one by one.... I 
remember how immeasurably happy I was that night as I went 
away. The new wine of Rabindranath’s poetry had intoxicated 
me. I had only seen tiny extracts before ; but the recital which 
I had heard that evening was the full measure, pure and undilu- 
ted. It was an experience something not unlike that of Keats’, 
when he came for the first time upon Chapman’s translation of 
Homer, — 

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken. 

Of the many appreciative letters that came to Father immediately 
following the reading of his poems by Yeats I am quoting be- 
low only one — a letter from the well-known writer Miss May 
Sinclair : 


4 Edwardes Sqr. Studios 
Kensington 
July 8, 1912. 

Dear Mr. Tagore, 

It was impossible for me to say anything to you about your 
poems last night, because they are of a kind not easily spoken 
about. May I say now that as long as I live, even if I were never 
to hear them again, I shall never forget the impression that they 
made. It is not only that they have an absolute beauty, a perfec- 
tion as poetry, but that they have made present for me forever 
the divjne thing that I can only find by flashes and with an 
agonizing uncertainty. I don’t know whether it is possible to see 
through another’s eyes, I am afraid it is not ; but I am sure that 
it is possible to believe through another’s certainty. 

There is nothing to compare with what you have done except 
the poem of St. John of the Cross : ‘The Dark Night of the 
Soul’ and you surpass him and all Christian poets of Mysticism 
that I know by that sense of the Absolute, that metaphysical 
insight. It, to my mind, Christian mysticism almost completely 



WITH FATHER IN LONDON 


103 


lacks. It deals too much in sensual imagery, it is not sufficiently 
austere and subtle — it has not really seen through the illusion of 
the world. And therefore its passion is not and cannot be entirely 
pure. 

At least so it has always seemed to me, and that is why finding 
this imperfection in it, it sends me away still unsatisfied. 

Now it is satisfaction — this flawless satisfaction — you gave me 
last night. You have put into English which is absolutely trans- 
parent in its perfection things it is despaired of ever seeing 
written in English at all or in any Western language. 

I am rejoiced to learn that the Poems are to be published here 
in the autumn. 

With kind regards, 

Sincerely yours. 

May Sinclair. 


We had in the meantime moved to a boarding-house in South 
Kensington kept by two Belgian sisters. We had had enough 
of the roast beef, boiled cabbage, Yorkshire pudding and goose- 
berry tart, which appear with monotonous regularity in English 
hotels. The place was quite near the Indian Students’ Hostel in 
Cromwell Road. This gave the opportunity to many of our 
students to have easy access to Father. Amongst them were quite 
a few who have since made their mark in life, and now hold 
important positions. But the one who was the life and 
soul of the party — Sukumar Ray — a process engraver by pro- 
fession but far better known as a humorist and writer — is no 
more. 

Besides the Rothensteins in London, there were the Havells. 
Mr. Havell had been Principal of the Art School in Calcutta 
and the guru of my cousin Abanindranath. After retirement, 
although his home was in Denmark, he was living in London 
where he had already earned recognition as an authority on 
Indian Art. It was mainly through his efforts that the India 
Society was founded, and he was, if I am not mistaken, its 
first Secretary. Havell’s object in starting the Society was to 
assert the claims of Indian Art in England and to win the sup- 
port of the India Office in giving employment to Indian artists. 
Just then came a unique opportunity. New Delhi was going to 
be built. Havell was determined that Indian artists should plan 
it according to pure Indian Art traditions and prevent, if possi- 
ble, the erection of a hybrid city. He tried to enlist the support 



104 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


of the artists and art-critics of England, through the India 
Society. But Havell in his enthusiasm for Indian Art had not 
taken into account the business instinct of the British people. 
Strong forces were arrayed behind Sir Edward Lutyens. In spite 
of his admiration for Indian Art, William Rothenstein and his 
group went over to the other side and the India Society, as a 
result of this defection, became henceforth a subservient organi- 
sation of the India Office. Havell in protest severed his connec- 
tion with it. No one seemed to mind. 

The picturesque figure of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, promi- 
nent in most social gatherings in London during this period, 
added to the charm of the artistic — 1 would not say Bohemian — 
life of the city. He was much in demand for giving talks — and 
he could talk fluently and impressively on any subject dealing 
with Art ; but it was not so much his erudition as his tall and 
handsome appearance that made him attractive. 

William Butler Yeats was another whose striking figure would 
never fail to draw the eyes of everybody in any gathering. Even 
in a crowd he carried an air of impenetrable aloofness with him 
without, however, seeming snobbish or haughty. This gave him 
a great distinction. I felt this aloofness when I saw him for the 
first time in a drawing-room and dared not approach him. But 
soon afterwards I had the opportunity of knowing him rather 
well and was charmed by his genial personality. He used to live 
in a garret over the shop of a shoemaker in Woburn Place, near 
Russell Square. My friend Kalimohan Ghose and I spent many 
an evening with Yeats in this quaint retreat, talking about ghosts 
and spirits till the long hours of the night. We always carried 
back the impression that Yeats lived and had his being in a 
world of imagination, a fairy world which was very real to him. 
ft was difficult to believe he was a Westerner. 

One day we were surprised when Sir Oliver Lodge called at 
our South Kensington boarding-house and introduced himself 
to Father. It was amusing to me to find this eminent scientist 
questioning Father on the belief of re-incarnation prevalent in 
rndia. He had given up by that time all his interest in science 
and was devoting himself entirely to spiritualism. 

One more visitor was Bertrand Russell. He also turned up 
suddenly and had to introduce himself since Father had never 
met him. He told Father that he had come down from Cam- 



WITH FATHER IN LONDON 


11D 


bridge specially to see him, and then without any further attempt 
at conversation abruptly asked him, ‘Tagore, what is Beauty V 
The question came so suddenly that Father kept silent for a 
minute and then explained his ideas on aesthetics which he 
later developed in ‘What is Art’ in his book Creative Unity . I 
could not judge whether Father’s exposition satisfied Bertrand 
Russell because after listening with rapt attention he left just 
as suddenly as he had come. 

While Father was constantly meeting new personages, Kali- 
mohan Ghose and I divided our leisure hours between the two 
poets, Yeats and Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound was unique, a class 
by himself. He took the business of poetry seriously and was 
proud and conscious of being a poet who had succeeded in cast- 
ing away the fetters and conventions of his fellow craftsmen. 
There was undoubtedly a good deal of the poseur in him, yet 
we could not help liking him. His American nationality, of 
which he was not at all proud, perhaps accounted for his naive 
simplicity and warm-heartedness. He became devoted to Father, 
and looked upon him as a master. 

Of all contemporary English writers Father had the most 
tender regard for W. H. Hudson. Years ago when my sister and 
I could hardly understand English, Father used to read to us 
from Hudson’s books of travel. His favourite books were The 
Naturalist in La Plata and Green Mansions. Rothenstein shared 
his love for Hudson, and it was not difficult to arrange a meet- 
ing. We were not present there, but when he came back Father 
told us a most moving story about this writer which helped us 
to understand the passionate love for nature that characterizes 
all his writings. Hudson’s intense love for music led him to 
marry an accomplished violinist. He used to be deeply moved 
whenever she played to him. The tragedy came when after 
marriage his wife refused to touch her violin again. Hudson 
was bitterly disappointed, but this did not deter him from nur- 
sing his wife after she became an invalid with great tenderness 
and devotion for years. The love that was not returned by the 
only human being he cared for was deflected with a passionate 
intensity towards wild nature, still unspoiled by man. Father’s 
admiration for this unusual writer increased considerably after 
he came into personal contact with him. 

One evening we were all invited to a dinner given by Miss 



106 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


May Sinclair. It was a fairly large gathering of well-known 
writers. Father was seated next to Bernard Shaw. Conversation 
flowed around the table with sparkling brilliance, but to the 
surprise of everybody Shaw hardly opened his mouth. Father 
had to do all the talking. We were told Shaw had never kept 
so silent anywhere before. Our next meeting with him was at 
the Queen’s Hall where we went to hear the violinist Heifetz. 
At Uhe end of the concert, as we were making our exit through 
the jostling crowd, somebody suddenly caught hold of Father 
and turning him round quietly announced, ‘Do you remember 
me ? I am Bernard Shaw’, and walked away. 

The Suffragette Movement was at its height. My wife became 
interested in it and attended many of their meetings. One night 
she was late in returning from a meeting. We wondered whether 
she had also been breaking shop-windows and been marched 
off to a police station. When at last she came home, she told us 
a story about Shaw which was characteristically Shavian. 
Everybody knew that Shaw was a staunch supporter of the 
Suffragette Movement. Very early that morning an unknown 
person had come to Adelphi Terrace, roused Shaw from his 
bed and told him excitedly that he must have £ 100 immediately 
to bail out Miss Pankhurst, who had been arrested. The money 
was paid without hesitation. When afterwards it was discovered 
that the whole thing had been a fraud and that he had been 
cheated, Shaw consoled himself by saying, ‘The man, of course, 
deserved the money. He has proved that there is at least one 
person who is cleverer than Bernard Shaw.’ 

In Ernest Rhys Father found a genuine friend. Rhys would 
quite often walk into our rooms unobtrusively on his way back 
from Dents’ and with a broad grin on his heavily bearded face 
sit down and talk literature with encyclopaedic knowledge and 
discerning judgment. We too would often visit his simple but 
beautifully kept cottage in Golders Green, sit sipping sherbet in 
the garden, and listen to the piano which he played with much 
feeling. Mrs. Rhys was a devoted mother and an amiable hostess 
and they had a pair of charming children. Very often the whole 
family would gather round Father, and ask him to sing the 
Gitanjali songs. They were Welsh, and even after their long 
residence in London they had lost none of their racial charac- 
teristics. Music is in the blood of the Celtic race, and therefore 



IN THE U.S.A. 


107 


it was not surprising that they could appreciate Father’s songs, 
though the music was foreign. A friend of the family — Dr. 
Walford Davis, who afterwards became a well-known composer 
— used to come sometimes to take down notations of the 
Bengali tunes from Father. 

Thomas Sturge Moore was a young poet when Father first 
met him. Although he never earned a great reputation, and 
remained one of the minor poets, he had a wonderful feeling 
for words and a keen sense of rhythm. Father very often discus- 
sed with him the arrangement and selection of poems in the 
volumes that followed Gitanjali. He was not at all like an 
Englishman. He looked and thought more like a Frenchman. 
His wife translated one of Father’s books into French. 1 Their 
unassuming and charming manners made it easy to make 
friends with them. 

The London season, as far as we were concerned, closed with 
a banquet given in the Trocadero Restaurant by a group of 
writers and artists led by Yeats. After Yeats had given a read- 
ing from Gitanjali — this time before a larger and more repre- 
sentative gathering — there were many after-dinner speeches, 
mainly felicitations by leaders of different literary groups. While 
replying to the toasts Father recited a few unpublished poems, 
and at the end when Father sang in Bengali the national song 
Vande Mataram everybody rose and remained standing. 


In the U.S.A. 

The English winter was heralded by dismal foggy days, and in 
October we sailed for America, where a fresh and an entirely 
different set of experiences awaited Father. 

I was able to induce Father to go to my university at Urbana, 
Illinois, and spend the winter months there. This, I had thought, 
would give me the opportunity to work for my doctorate. We 
got a house not far from my college and soon settled down. 1 
was happy to see Father start writing immediately. I knew that 
as long as he remained busy at his desk he would not think 
of moving and I might get a long spell at the University to 


1 The Crescent Moon. 



108 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


finish my thesis. It is not easy to set up house in America and 
my wife who had never been there before had a difficult time. 
But she had two persons to help her — Bankim Roy, a former 
teacher at Santiniketan, and Somendra Dev Barman, one of our 
students. The Seymours were of course a great help. 

Father was writing Sadhana . As each chapter was written I 
had to get it typed. But since there were constant additions and 
alterations typing became an expensive item in our budget. So 
I bought a portable machine and did the typing myself. I had 
to type and retype each chapter so many times that by the time 
I finished I knew almost the whole book by heart. Very often 
the pastor of the local Unitarian Church, who as a graduate of 
Harvard claimed a broader cultural outlook than most people 
of this Middle West university town, asked Father to give read- 
ings from these manuscripts to select groups in the Church. 
Encouraged by the interest of the people who came to listen. 
Father read out all the chapters of Sadhana one by one and 
was satisfied that each of them could serve as subject matter 
for a separate discourse. 

But the backwaters of a provincial place like Urbana could 
hardly be expected to hold him long. Father grew restless. I 
knew the symptoms too well. He had finished his writing and he 
felt the natural urge to communicate what he considered India’s 
message to the West. Fortunately an opportunity presented it- 
self to Father to address a larger public in the U.S.A. The 
Federation of Religious Liberals were holding a Congress at 
Rochester and Father was invited to give an address. His lec- 
ture on Race Conflict was greatly appreciated. Father met Dr. 
Rudolph Eucken, the sage philosopher who had come from 
Germany to attend the Congress, and had long and interesting 
discussions with him. 

Invitations began to pour in now from different universities. 
I had to go to Chicago to make the arrangements for a series 
of lectures at that University. There I met for the first time 
Mrs. William Vaughan Moody, the wife of the poet, who eager- 
ly offered her hospitality to Father during his stay at Chicago. 
This contact led to a much cherished friendship lasting until 
the death of this remarkable woman, whose house was the 
refuge of many would-be artists and writers and a great attrac- 
tion to all persons of eminence visiting the U.S.A. 



father’s foreign tours 


109 


After Chicago the call came from Harvard and from New 
York for a series of lectures. I realised that the time had come 
to strike our little camp at Urbana and to give up my post- 
graduate studies. Not that I regretted it much. 

By the middle of April, 1913 we were back in England from 
where we sailed for India on September 4, 1913. 


Father's Foreign Tours 

Father was an inveterate traveller. Even in his early life he 
would not stay at home for long. He had then to satisfy him- 
self with moving about within the limits of India, with only 
two brief visits to England. The first of these visits took place 
long before I was born and the second in 1890 when I was a 
child in arms. In most of his subsequent travels to the Euro- 
pean continent and once to the United States, my wife and 
myself accompanied him. The years of his foreign travels with 
us. if I remember aright, are 1912, 1920, 1924, 1926 and 1930. In 
1932 he flew to Persia and Mesopotamia with my wife only, as 
I was not well enough to accompany them. Besides these tours 
in. which we participated he made several voyages to the Far 
East and to the two continents of America with other compa- 
nions. Neither could we accompany him on his trip to Russia. 

The visit to England in 1912 became memorable for the 
publication of Gitanjali followed by the award of the Nobel 
Prize. The next trip to Europe was taken immediately after the 
first World War in 1920. The two years 1920 and 1921 which 
we spent travelling in nearly every country on the continent of 
Europe and a long winter in the U.S.A. were a most revealing 
experience for us and gave us for the first time a true under- 
standing of the outside world. The devastating effects of the 
war were fresh in the minds of the people and the very founda- 
tions of their civilization had received a rude shock. In despera- 
tion they were turning again to the East for some light to guide 
them in reconstructing their lives. Just then the presence of 
Father in their midst was looked upon as a godsend. His message 
gave them hope. In England and France people are not usually 
carried away by emotion. But even there the love and venera- 
tion Father received wherever he went was surprising. In cen- 



110 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


tral and northern Europe, the people simply worshipped the 
ground he trod upon. In crowded meetings and railway stations 
we got used to the sight of people jostling each other to approach 
Father in order to touch the hem of his robe. The sale of 
his books was phenomenal. In Germany millions of copies were 
sold. The bank where the royalties had been accumulating 
wanted to know what should be done since the inflation was 
rapidly reducing the value of the deposit. By the time we rea- 
ched Germany, the millions of marks to the credit of Father 
were worth only about ten thousand rupees. Our companion, a 
Bombay businessman, advised me not to cash in this paltry 
amount, but to buy Bavarian Bonds and wait for future appre- 
ciation of the maik. But within a few days the bank again wrote 
informing us that the value of the account was now worth 
only a few annas, and that the bank was obliged to close the 
account. Thus Father was saved the disaster of becoming a 
millionaire ! 

While we were spending a few weeks in the delightful house 
of Albert Kahn at Cap Martin in the South of France — a 
friend of ours, a French artist, had come back from a trip to 
Italy. While walking on the beach of a small fishing village in 
the Italian Riviera, she came upon a fisherman sitting in the 
shade of a boat drawn upon the sands, watching the nets dry- 
ing in front of him and reading a book. Her curiosity aroused, 
she enquired what he was reading there in such surroundings. 
The man was quite indignant and replied derisively ‘Don’t think 
I am reading a trashy romance. Don’t you see it is Tagore’s 
The Post Office l 9 

An officer of the Indian army told us that while he was 
travelling with his company on the continent, their train was 
halted at a wayside station and their carriage was loaded with 
gifts of flowers and fruit brought by a group of girls and as 
the train began to move these girls cried out ‘To the country- 
men of Tagore !’ I have been told that Clemenceau sent for the 
Comtesse de Noailles to read out to him poems from Gitanfali 
on the evening the armistice was declared after the first World 
War. 

But the most touching is a letter my father received from 
the mother of the young poet, Wilfred Owen, after his tragic 
death. I quote the letter : 



FATHER’S FOREIGN TOURS 


111 


Shrewsbury. 
August 1st 1920 r 


Dear Sir Rabindranath, 

I have been trying to find courage to write to you ever since 
I heard that you were in London — but the desire to tell you 
something is finding its way into this letter today. The letter 
may never reach you, for I do not know how to address it, 
tho’ I feel sure your name upon the envelope will be sufficient 
It is nearly two years ago, that my dear eldest son went out to 
the War for the last time and the day he said Goodbye to me — 
we were looking together across the sun-glorified sea — looking 
towards France, with breaking hearts — when he, my poet son, 
said those wonderful words of your$ — beginning at ‘When I go 
from hence, let this be my parting word’ — and when his pocket 
book came back to me — I found these words written in his dear 
writing — with your name beneath. Would it be asking too much 
of you, to tell me what book I should find the whole poem in ? 

My precious boy was killed, one week before the awful fight- 
ing was over — the news came to us on Armistice day. A small 
book of my son’s War Poems will be published very soon — his 
heart was tom with sorrow at the suffering he saw “out there” 
and the callousness of the majority at home — the futility of 
War — he speaks not of his own sufferings but any one who loved 
him can tell from his poems what he had passed through, to be 
able to write as he did. He was only 25. Wilfred loved all that 
was beautiful, his life was beautiful and of great influence for 
good. Our God knew but when he took him “hence” — and I 
must not murmur — for I know He is a God of love— and would 
have answered my constant prayers — if, to come back to me, 
would have been best. So I bow my head and go softly all my 
days till we meet again — as we shall do in the Land our Savi- 
our went to “prepare” for us. Forgive this longer letter than I 
intended to write when I began — I should like you to read my 
son’s little book, if you will do us , the honour ? — (Chatto and 
Windus are bringing it out in the autumn) — if I may, I should 
be proud to send you a copy. 

With great respect and admiration 

from the Mother of Wilfred Owen — 
Susan H. Owen 

It was impossible for us not to be moved by such demons- 
trations of love and admiration which we also witnessed not 
only at the height of father’s fame in the years immediaetly 
following the war of 1914-18 but during all the subsequent 
tours that were undertaken by him. 



112 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


A Travel Diary 

I find that I kept rough notes of our visit to Europe in 1920. 
Although they were put down in great haste and are by no 
means complete I cannot resist the temptation of sharing the 
entries with my readers for whatever they are worth : 

May 15, 1920 

At about 10-30 a.m. after breakfast we quietly left for the 
dock. Kshiti Mohan Sen came with us in the car. By noon we 
were all on board — but it was nearly five in the afternoon be- 
fore the boat sailed. The boat is a large one and very crowded. 

May 16 

Some distinguished company on board — The Maharaja of 
Alwar, the Aga Khan, Sir Currimbhoy, Sir J. Jeejeebhoy, the 
Jam Saheb of Nawanagar Ran jit Singh ji (Ranji), and some 
others ; otherwise the greater portion of the passengers are un- 
interesting. Altogether too many people on board. Enough to 
make one feel uncomfortable. 

Father seems to enjoy his talks with the Aga Khan and the 
Maharaja. Quite frequently the former reads out to him from 
Hafiz and then they have discussions on Sufism. The Jam Saheb 
too is very genial company. 

June 5 

From Marseilles to Plymouth it was an uneventful voyage. 
We were expecting Kedar Das Gupta to meet us at Plymouth 
but it was quite a surprise to see Pearson also waiting for us 
at the pier. Rothenstein and family received us at Paddington 
and took us over to the Kensington Palace Mansions, where he 
had arranged a flat for us. The place is quite comfortable. 
Rothenstein came again after dinner. Father had a long chat 
with him mostly enquiring after old acquaintances and friends, 
and discussing modem conditions in India and England. It 
seemed so much like old times — the summer of 1913. 

June 6 

Pearson is putting up with us. The whole day long we had 
visitors. Rothenstein came with his daughters in the morning. 
Conversation turned on whether artists, writers and intellectuals 



A TRAVEL DIARY 


113 


who were alive to the weaknesses of the government and resen- 
ted its spirit of greed and exploitation should co-operate with it. 
Rothenstein evidently favoured co-operation ; he thought the 
intellectuals could not very well refuse to do their best, when 
they were appealed to by the State to help in the reconstruction 
of the country ; that the idea of ‘service’ was so deep-rooted in 
modern man, that his salvation lay through it, and that in the 
case of artists, specially, they could no longer depend for their 
living and the preservation of their art on the patronage of a 
few rich individuals ; since more and more the rich would have 
less surplus to spend on the arts. The artists therefore must 
work for democracy through the State. Father pointed out that 
artists, of all persons, must have absolute independence, that it 
is not healthy for them to be under any restraint. He mentioned 
the Indian Society of Oriental Art of Calcutta — and said that 
the very fact of its being under Government patronage was sure 
to react and have a baneful effect on the mind and work of the 
artists. Rothenstein said that after all it was not so bad for 
artists to have limits imposed upon them. It does not really 
matter and sometimes it is better that their material should re- 
main outside their control. Religion gave such opportunities to 
the Italian painters. Modem freedom has had harmful results, 
as in the case of the Futurists. 

Spent a delightful afternoon with Sir Frank Dyson in the 
Observatory at Greenwich. He is such an unassuming person. 
The whole place has such a quiet atmosphere that it is wonder- 
ful to think that so much work is being carried on with so 
little pretension. Sir Frank Dyson has had very distinguished 
predecesors, Newton having been the founder of the institution. 
The whole place is full of the atmosphere of the continuity of a 
great work carried on through generations. Sir Frank showed us 
the photographic plate of the last total eclipse of the sun, which 
for the first time lent proof to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. 

June 17 

The last few days our engagements have been so many and I 
have had to go about so much that I "did not have time to 
write this diary. Of course we are seeing a lot of the Rothen- 
•steins. Father goes there quite frequently, but not so often as 
lie used to when he came last time and was living in Hampstead. 



114 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


However, he has been able to meet many of his old friends and 
acquaintances at Rothenstein’s house. 

Father called on Mr. Montagu and Lord Sinha at the India 
Office. He told Mr. Montagu that it was not so much the 
punishment of Dyer that India asked for, but moral condem- 
nation of the crime by the British nation. The Government 
of India was conducted by a machine ; its heartlessness was 
what oppressed the people. One example of it was the permis- 
sion given by the India Government to export cattle to Brazil, 
while thousands of children were dying for want of milk, al- 
though the chiefs of Kathiawar had prohibited export from their 
own territories. Mr. Montagu agreed with Father about the 
Punjab atrocities, but he said he was not quite free to act always 
in his own way. What he was trying to do was to bring about 
internal changes in the Government machinery so that such 
things should be impossible in the future. 

After dinner Suniti Chatterji brought in Nicholas Roerich, the 
Russian painter, and his two sons. Roerich showed us an album 
containing reproductions of his paintings which had been prin- 
ted on the occasion of the celebration of his jubilee by his 
friends. The pictures are indeed remarkable. There is nothing 
in Western art to compare with them. Father was greatly im- 
pressed. One of the sons is studying Sanskrit in London, and 
the other architecture. The whole family is going to India next 
September. Their genuine simplicity and unaffected manners 
were charming ; so refreshing, so different from the stiffness of 
the English. We should like to know them better. 

June 27 

On Sunday afternoon Father lunched with Colonel Lawrence. 
He liked him very much. Col. Lawrence said he was ashamed 
to go back to Arabia because of the treacherous behaviour of 
the British Government. His promises to the Arab people had 
not been kept ; he could not face them, the people whom he 
loved so much. Here is a young Oxford graduate who goes to 
Arabia and within a short time becomes their hero, is able to 
organise a powerful army which drives out the Ottoman power 
from the country ; and he so freely mixes with the people that 
they recognise him as one of their own and all but crown him 
as their king. His career has been truly romantic, and for its 



A TRAVEL DIARY 


115 


romance could hardly be matched in this century. When Father 
told him that he found there was a brutality inherent in the 
Western people which the Indian people did not have and could 
never really imbibe from their rulers — temperamentally they 
were so different — he replied that the only remedy lay in strik- 
ing back at the Englishman harder than he hits, for then he 
would come to his senses and recognise others as worthy brothers. 

June 

On Thursday the East and West Society arranged a meeting 
at Caxton Hall to give Father an address of welcome. The hall 
was packed. Charles Roberts — the former Under-Secretary to 
Montagu — presided and made a rather long speech which people 
could hardly hear. Then Miss Tubbs sang four of father’s poems 
set to music by a well-known composer. She has a powerful 
voice, but to our ears the music sounded inappropriate to the 
sense of the poems it tried to interpret. It was too operatic. Then 
Sybil Thorndike, who has recently made a mark by her tragic 
role in Trojan Woman and Medea , recited the poem composed 
for the occasion by Laurence Binyon. Such a beautiful voice ! 
We were charmed by her elocution. Father replied with a brief 
speech — spoken effectively. It was greatly appreciated. Ernest 
Rhys told me on coming out that it was by far the best thing 
of the evening. Bhupendranath Basu in moving to thank the 
Chairman could not help referring to the political situation. It 
was an outburst. And because of its genuine feeling his words 
did not seem incongruous. The Maharajas of Alwar and Jhalwar, 
Ernest Rhys, Gilbert Murray, Laurence Binyon, Sir Krishna 
Govinda Gupta, and many others were present at the meeting. 
We met the Dubes — they now live in the country near Brighton, 
where they invited us. Quite a crowd were waiting at the en- 
trance to see Father pass on his way to the carriage. 

Charles Roberts had invited us to lunch. We met Lord Robert 
Cecil and Gilbert Murray. Father took Lord Cecil aside after 
lunch and talked all the time about Indian politics. Cecil admit- 
ted that he was entirely ignorant of Indian affairs, but would 
like to hear what Father had to say. After Father had told him 
about the situation and the hopelessness of the Reforms intro- 
duced by Montagu, Lord Cecil said, ‘But you must remember 
we are a small community there, and since we believe that we 



116 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


are ruling the Indians for their benefit — we must do everything 
in our power to see to the safety of this minority.’ Father replied, 
Tt is only because you find yourselves a small isolated commu- 
nity and therefore unable to defend your position in India with- 
out the help of brutal force that this relationship has become so 
disastrous.’ He did not argue much, but went away as soon as 
Father had done with him. Gilbert Murray wanted to help in 
anyway he could ; and Father suggested if he could get a protest 
signed by a number of intellectuals like him, that would have a 
great moral effect. He promised he would try and said he did 
not anticipate much difficulty. 

On Monday we all went to Cambridge. Lady Roberts had 
asked us to tea. Father went with Pearson by the 1-30 train ; we 
followed them by the evening train. Cambridge was crowded 
with outsiders— it was degree day. Prof. Anderson met us at the 
station. He has aged considerably. As it was difficult to get 
rooms we had to put up at the Blue Boar Hotel. Father was 
engaged with Prof. Anderson in the morning, discussing Bengali 
prosody and comparing it with French. 

Lunched with Lowes Dickinson. Prof. Keynes came. He looks 
more like a youthful, bright, buoyant college student than a 
great authority on world economics. His fame does not seem to 
have affected him much. Dickinson has beautiful rooms in King’s 
College, decorated with pieces of oriental silk and Chinese 
paintings, which he must have picked up during his tour of the 
East. The conversation ran on the political situation, anecdotes 
of travel in the East and in America, the religious literature of 
India, Chinese painting and such like topics. He wished very 
much that the best of the philosophical literature of India could 
be made more easily available to the West in a form in which 
it could be understood by Western readers. Father said that 
most of the translations were unhappy, done by scholars with- 
out any distinctive grace of style or real comprehension of the 
originals. 


July 20 

On Saturday afternoon Father left with Pearson for Peters- 
field, to spend a week with the Muirhead Bones. Sturge Moore 
is also in the neighbourhood. We are staying behind, as there 
wouldn’t be room enough for all of us. 



A TRAVEL DIARY 


117 


We called on Mr. and Mrs. Yeats this afternoon. We did not 
know the address but had heard from Rothenstein that they 
were living in Ezra Pound’s flat. So we went to 10 Church Walk, 
but Ezra Pound had shifted from there. At last we traced them 
to a house quite near our place in Church Street. Rothen- 
stein, who helped us to find the house, came in for a few 
moments. Yeats has not changed much. He and his wife have 
just come back from their long lecture tour in America. He said 
that of Father’s recent works, My Reminiscences and The Home 
and the World had impressed him most. He wished father had 
carried on his autobiography to later years, when he wrote 
his best works and was getting into touch with society. He said 
The Home and the World was very true of Irish Society at the 
present time. All the problems apply equally well to his country. 
He asked if it had not stirred up strong feelings in India, for 
he was sure it would have done so in Ireland, if a similar book 
were written by an Irish writer. 

On Friday evening Rothenstein had asked us to an after- 
dinner party at his house. Dilip Roy gave some Indian songs. 
Yeats who met Father during this visit, requested him to sing 
some Gitanjali songs. Yeats first recited the poem in English in 
his usual dignified manner ; then Father sang in Bengali. 

July 22 

An interesting interview with Sir Horace Plunkett in his flat 
in Mayfair. Pearson and myself accompanied Father. The con- 
versation was mostly about the co-operative movement in Ireland. 
Sir Horace is not eloquent but every word he said came out of 
his thirty years’ experience of organising village life in Ireland. 
He is an idealist but at the same time practical. He had been 
able to realise many of his dreams and that is saying a grealt 
deal. He said that they had made mistakes in the beginning 
but every one of those failures had taught them something and 
they could point out the defects that led to them. But the princi- 
ple on which they had worked was sound ; they had never 
doubted that. If he were to start again from the beginning, he 
would know exactly how to proceed, what pitfalls to avoid. He 
was aware of the similarity of conditions in the West of Ireland 
and India. He was so sorry he could not go out to India wit|h 
the Industrial Commission, owing to his health. Then he dis- 



118 ON THE EDGES OF TIME 

cussed some of the main principles of co-operation, saying that 
it was in the economic field that men could really unite and 
co-operate, more so than even in religion. When father men- 
tioned our project of going to Denmark, he said that when they 
had started work in Ireland they had simply followed the 
methods employed in Denmark where, of course, the conditions 
were more favourable ; and that for that very reason it would 
be more instructive for us to study the co-operative movement 
in Ireland than in Denmark. We should then have a greater 
understanding of the difficulties. He said that it was very neces- 
sary to study the local conditions, to find out the real needs of 
the people, and then to take up one thing at a time — one thing 
only, and make it a success. A failure at the beginning is very 
demoralising. Then he asked Father to come to Ireland — not 
just at present — but he thought October would be a good time. 
He expected the political situation to change by then. 

On Thursday afternoon Father had lunch at Lady Courtney’s 
where he met Gooch (Editor, Contemporary Review) and Mr. 
and Mrs. Sidney Webb. Father liked Gooch very much. Mrs. 
Webb’s generalisations regarding the treatment of labour by 
Indian mill-owners and her hatred of the Fakirs as a class., 
brought out strong contradictions from Father. 

August 4 

The last week of July was entirely taken up by the perfor- 
mance by the Union of East and West of the five dramatic 
lyrics, newly translated but as yet unpublished, and Father’s 
lecture under the same auspices, entitled ‘Some Songs of the 
Village Mystics of Bengal’. Father had helped in the rehearsals 
of the plays and Pratima and myself in dressing up the actors. 
The plays were given at the Wigmore Hall without elaborate 
stage effects, with only a simple background of blue curtain 
and some pot plants and two spot lights. There were no foot- 
lights. It was on the whole very effective. The acting was also 
good. Between the acts Sarojini Naidu spoke for a few minutes 
introducing each play. Miss Alice Coomara (Mrs. Coomara- 
swamy) sang during the intervals and, though at times she was 
monotonous, her voice was much appreciated. Before the cur- 
tain rose Father recited Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka , both in 
Bengali and English. One of the things that produced the pro- 



A TRAVEL DIARY 


119 


per atmosphere and gave a setting to the plays was a little piece 
of dumb acting, preceding Kacha and DevayanU in which the 
scene opened with some pupils sitting round their guru in a forest 
hermitage and a few hermitage girls going round watering plants 
with their pitchers. The guru chanted a Sanskrit hymn as the les- 
son for the day came to an end, and then as they were going away 
Kacha entered and met Devayani weaving a garland of flowers. 
This little prelude was suggested by Father, and Mukul Dey, 
Nikhil Chaudhuri and the Klinghoffer sisters took part in it. 
It is a pity that Das Gupta could not arrange for the production 
of these plays earlier in the season — all the best people haye 
gone away now. Still the hall was filled, and I could feel that the 
audience was appreciative. Father’s lecture followed next evening 
at the same place. There was a greater demand for tickets for 
the lecture than for the plays. 

Some time ago Father had met Mile. D’Aranyi at the Rothen- 
steins. Rothenstein had asked Dilip Roy to sing Hindi music 
that evening. Father also gave one or two of his own song's. 
These greatly impressed Mile. D’Aranyi and she asked Father 
to come to a party where she was going to play the violin. She 
said it had been her greatest ambition to play before him. 
Father went there and came back very happy — full of joy for 
the great treat she had given him. She played that evening as 
she had never played before and Father said this was the first 
occasion he had really enjoyed and fully understood European 
music. She is a wonderful artist — but she can only play well 
when inspired. And she was certainly inspired that evening. She 
is not only a great musician but a most wonderful creature, 
simple, frank, childlike and gives one the impression of posses- 
sing a deep spiritual nature. Both Rothenstein and Father are 
charmed with her. Rothenstein again invited her to play one 
evening at his house. All of us went. She said she was rather 
tired that day, and would play ducts with her sister. They play- 
ed beautifully — but, of course, as Father said, not anything like 
what she had done the previous evening. Her sister is married to 
a Greek — Mr. Fachiri, a very nice fellow. The sisters are Hunga- 
rians and are nieces of the composer Joachim. Next week we 
went to their house to tea. We at once became friendly with 
them. They are charming. No formalities ; one could immediately 
feel the bond of human relationship with them. Prof Tovey was 



120 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


there too. He played a few pieces from Bach and Haydn and 
explained them to us. He thought some of Father’s songs sug- 
gested Haydn to him more than anyone else. Then they all 
played together (piano, two violins and cello) a most beautiful 
piece from Brahms. We all feel very fortunate in getting acquain- 
ted with these girls. 


A Still-born Trip to Norway 

In 1920, when Europe had not quite settled down to normal 
conditions after the First Great War, political espionage was 
still being widely employed by all governments. It was at this 
time, while we were still in London, that Father was being 
flooded with invitations from every corner of Europe. In 1913 
when he was awarded the Nobel Prize, he could not accept the 
invitation of the Nobel Committee to go in person to Sweden 
to receive the prize, as is the custom. Then the War interfered, 
and now that he was in Europe again and the invitation was 
renewed, he could not very well refuse it. So it was settled that 
the first country to be visited on the Continent would be Sweden, 
and the party to accompany him was to consist of Willie Pear- 
son, who had volunteered to act as his private secretary, Mr. 
Bomanji, a Parsi gentleman from Bombay, my wife and myself. 
Meantime a new member came to be added to the party. Father 
who always enjoyed company felt quite happy about it. A lady 
was introduced to him by a well-known Orientalist whom we 
knew to be connected with politics but never suspected to be 
a tool in the hands of a government department. She made her- 
self quite at home in our flat, in the manner natural only to 
continentals, and greatly pleased Father by her interest in 
Eastern philosophy. When she came to hear of our plans she 
immediately offered to act as a guide at her own expense, say- 
ing that she knew almost everybody worth knowing in the 
Scandinavian countries and that this little service would help to 
show an infinitesimal portion of the gratitude her countrymen 
felt for the great poet. Obviously she could not be refused. She 
began immediately to write letters and work out the details of 
the tour and proved so efficient and at the same time so amiable 
that both Pearson and myself felt considerably relieved. It had 
been settled that we were to cross the North Sea from Newhaven 



PARIS DIAR'Y 


121 


and land at Bergen in Norway. On the very eve of our depar- 
ture, as was always my custom when travelling with Father, I 
went to Thos. Cook’s to buy our tickets for the boat. I was a 
familiar figure with the passage department and the clerk who 
had got used to our ways, when handing over the tickets, warned 
me with a smile, ‘No refund this time !’ 

On returning to our flat in South Kensington that evening 
with passports, passages, luggage labels and what not, I was 
immediately treated to a romantic story by Bomanji, who had 
it fresh from his Swedish masseuse. It was the usual sordid 
kind of tale told about international spies, so familiar during 
the days of the War, and which in this instance applied to our 
future travelling companion. Pearson’s moral indignation made 
him rush out to confront the lady with the truth. On Father 
it had a different reaction. He asked me immediately to change 
the programme and arrange to leave for Paris the next morning. 
I had long ago become used to such lightning changes, and 
after all did manage to get the refund of the tickets bought a 
few hours ago from the same clerk, without any other loss save 
that of what little reputation was still standing to my credit as 
a reliable customer in that office. 

Next evening we were in Paris and a few days afterwards I 
received a pile of cuttings taken from newspapers in Bergen 
which I have carefully preserved. Big headlines and front page 
descriptions of our arrival at Bergen and even photographs of 
the party disembarking from the boat ! What a wonderful ex- 
ample of a modern newspaper stunt ! And the lady who had 
posted them to me, how she must have enjoyed her triumphs ! 


Paris Diary 

Paris , 7th August 1920 

Saturday evening. Chatterjee of the Y.M.C.A. took us to the 
Grand Opera where Faust was being played. Father greatly 
enjoyed it. It was better than any of the operas we had seen in 
America or London. As a rule Father does not enjoy plays 
unless they are very good — so it was a relief to find he really 
liked the acting and the music. We had a bitter experience when 
taking him to The Beggar’s Opera in London a few days ago. 
We had all heard praises of this play even from very discrimina- 



122 ON THE EDGES OF TIME 

ting persons — so when Sachin Sen wanted to take us to a theatre 
we ourselves suggested The Beggar* s Opera and Father of his 
own accord wanted to go. But from the very first scene it pro- 
ved to be a great disappointment. The subject, the treatment, 
the music, everything jarred on our taste. We could find neither 
humour nor any literary or artistic flavour about it. After the 
second scene Father felt awfully annoyed and bored and left 
the place with Pearson. We had to stay on so as not to offend 
Sachin — though, poor fellow, he had left the choice entirely to 
us. The last scene was the worst of all — it would have made 
Father furious. We failed to understand why this obsolete and 
vulgar example of the most decadent period of English litera- 
ture should be suddenly revived and people go crazy over it. 
Only one explanation offers itself. After the war there has been 
a great urge for a strong nationalist revival. The English feel 
humiliated that they should always have to go to hear foreign 
operas, foreign theatres, foreign music etc. So they have pro- 
duced this purely indigenous opera and to hide its shame they 
applaud it in their loudest voices. 

Paris , 8th August 1920 

Sunday morning, accompanied by Sudhir Rudra acting as our 
guide, we taxied to the guest house of the Autour du Monde 
at 9 Quai du Quatre Septembre, Boulogne sur Seine. The place 
is on the outskirts of Paris, beyond the Bois de Boulogne. The 
house and the surroundings seemed charming especially after the 
gloomy, noisy rooms of the hotel. Father remarked that after 
leaving India this was the first time he had felt really happy 
and at home. The Secretary. M. Gamier, was absent but it 
made no difference — the attendant Laurence was such a perfect 
gentleman and so attentive to all our wants. We admired him 
very much. This house seems to be given over for the use of 
the circle Autour du Monde by its owner M. Kahn, who lives 
next door. There are two bedrooms on the second floor where dis- 
tinguished foreigners and recipients of the Kahn Travelling Fellow- 
ships are accommodated as guests. On the first floor is a good 
library with books of travel and information about all the diffe- 
rent countries of the world and the Secretary’s room. On the 
ground floor are the lounge, dining room, and a beautiful par- 
lour opening out on to the garden behind. The garden is a 
most wonderful one. It belongs to M. Kahn, but on Sundays it 



PARIS DIARV 


123 


is open to members of the circle. We are allowed to go there 
at all times. Through a winding lane we enter at once into 
mountain scenery resembling the Pyrenees. The ground has been 
made undulating to give an appearance of hills and valleys. The 
hills are thickly covered with pines and firs and the ground 
strewn with big boulders. I have heard that all the trees and 
boulders on this section of the garden were actually brought 
from the Pyrenees mountains. On one side in a little opening 
of the forest is a small valley with a pond full of lilies. This is 
a delightful surprise — so hidden is it from the casual wanderer. 
Emerging from the forest we come to a level ground laid out 
with fruit trees and flower beds in the typically French style. 
The fruit trees are very interesting, trained to all kinds of shapes 
and sizes, but every branch is laden heavily with the most temp- 
ting fruits. In the middle is a beautiful glass house and farther 
on a little pond with rocks and grottos on its banks. Then 
another surprise awaits the visitor. He enters a Mongolian gate- 
way and a most charming and picturesque view of Japanese 
landscape is revealed to him. There are some genuine Japanese 
tea. houses, temples and pagodas scattered all over the garden. 
All the trees are diminutive, with their branches twisted and 
tortured into all kinds of fantastic shapes. There are some minia- 
ture trees in pots brought from Japan that must be hundreds of 
years old. Two Japanese gardeners were employed for four 
years in laying out this garden, and they did their job admira- 
bly well, for a garden like this would be greatly appreciated 
even in Japan. But more interesting than the Society, the house, 
and the garden is the owner and founder of all these — M. Kahn. 
He is enormously rich, a banker, well-known in international 
financial circles. But he lives an absolutely simple life — does 
not even touch meat or wine. Most of his money he spends in 
humanitarian work. He has founded scholarships all over the 
world— by which every year dozens of scholars are able to go 
round the world studying the social, economic and religious ins- 
titutions of different countries and writing reports of their ex- 
periences. And then he has employed a number of men who 
go round different countries of the world taking motion pictures 
and coloured photographs of the life of these peoples, and also 
their natural surroundings and their monuments and architec- 
ture. He has an idea that when these have accumulated he will 



124 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


be able to see the lines along which humanity is travelling and 
the goal towards which they lead. I could not exactly follow 
how this was going to be done. However the man is full of 
idealism. He sees visions and is patiently waiting for the collec- 
tion of materials to draw conclusions from them. He is hopeful 
and full of enthusiasm for his country. He thinks France, of all 
countries, is best fitted to bring about a synthesis of conflicting 
ideas. Paris is full of temptations — life is so free and easy — 
but those who can rise above these are men of some mettle, 
because they have gone through temptations and have not 
fallen, but come out purer and better than ever before. M. Kahn 
speaks English, but he gets so excited while speaking that words 
do not come to him, and the more he is at a loss to find suitable 
words the more excited he becomes till at last he falls back on 
gesticulations. One afternoon he got very confidential, and told 
Father the greatest secret of his life, which he said, he had not 
confided to anybody else, except perhaps to Bergson. He said he 
came from a very orthodox jewish family ; his grandfather was 
a Rabbi, his very name signified the priestly class. When he 
came to Paris to seek his fortune he had brought with him all 
the tradition of his race and family. But just as he has earned 
his money single-handed, so he has built up his faith, too, by 
himself. He put everything, however dear to him, to the test of 
reason, and one by one most of them had to be rejected. But 
at last there came questions that his reason could not answer 
straightaway — he hesitated. One evening while staying at his 
villa in the South of France in Mentone — amongst the loveliest 
surroundings of nature — he was walking in his garden alone, 
when he knelt down and watched the stars and put himself the 
question of the ultimate reality. Then all of a sudden he saw a 
vision, he saw reality itself, what it was he cannot express — it 
was a wonderful experience with him. He cannot explain it — 
but he knows he has seen it. 

We meet the Karpeles sisters nearly every day. The artist 
Andree comes to paint Father and Suzanne, the younger sister, 
who is a pupil of Sylvain Levi and was given the title of Saras- 
wati by the Calcutta University, comes to collaborate with 
Father in translating his latest poems. Father translates them 
into English, which she takes down in a note book and transla- 
tes afterwards into her own language. Their home — a flat in 



PARIS DIARY 


125 


Auteil — is full of Indian curios, which they had brought with 
them from India. At their house we met M. Goloubew, Prof. 
Finot and Prof, and Mrs. James Woods of Harvard University. 
Goloubew and Finot are going in November to Indo-China to 
explore the archaeological remains in Cambodia. We told them 
we might be tempted to go there on our way back to India. M. 
Goloubew asked us to come to the Musee Guimet one afternoon 
— so we went last Saturday the 14th of August. He showed us 
some slides of Indian archaeology from his own collection and 
promised to give to the Asrama some slides and photographs 
which he asked me to come and choose next Tuesday. 

M. Sylvain Levi has come to see Father twice within the 
week. He is a charming man — so unassuming, so genial. His 
students are devoted to him. He has asked Father to speak at 
the Sorbonne in October when he comes back. Father had long 
conversations with him. Father has been trying to impress on 
M. Levi, M. Kahn and others the necessity of the interchange 
of thought between France and India. In India we are getting 
Western culture only through English literature — we have not 
come in contact with Continental culture. Europe is suffering 
at the present moment because its culture has rejected the East 
altogether. By rejecting Christian ideals her civilization has lost 
its balance. She must also get in touch with Eastern idealism 
and faith, otherwise it would be fatal for her. Father has sug- 
gested an interchange of scholars. 

Prof. Le Bran came to pay a visit on the second day after 
our arrival. He has read all Father’s works and is a devoted 
admirer. He has himself translated The. Gardener into French 
metrical verse. He is very eager to do some more translations. 
He brought his wife with him the other day — she is young. 
Their history is romantic and it seems Father’s poems had a 
lot to do with it. They got attracted to each other through a 
common admiration for Father’s poems. This is the second ins- 
tance we have heard of such an adventure. Prof. Fouchet was 
married to his young pupil in the same way. Mme Fouchet had 
written a thesis on Father’s works, and hearing that Prof. 
Fouchet was interested in India had taken it to him. This 
meeting inevitably led to the wedding altar ! 

Father is trying to find suitable translators for his works in 
France. Somehow or other not many of his books have been 



126 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


translated into French yet. We were told Nouvelle Revue Fran- 
caisc would be the proper firm to deal with, since they had 
already published Gitanjali and The Gardener. 


With Father on the Continent 

We remained the guests of M. Kahn at the Autour du Monde 
for quite a long time. The hospitality of M. Kahn was widely 
known, and every day either at lunch or dinner we would meet 
writers, artists and other distinguished people. With Henri Berg- 
son Father had very long discussions . 1 Father enjoyed talking 
with Bergson because he spoke English as fluently as his mother 
tongue ; so few Frenchmen speak any English at all. Bergson’s 
mother was Scottish ; so it was no wonder that he could speak 
English — though with a Scottish accent. 

The Comtesse de Brimont was quite a well-known poet in 
France. She used to come quite often to hear Father read the 
most recent translations of his Bengali poems. She would request 
him even to recite the originals. She had a desire to translate 
some of Father’s works. She therefore wanted to enter into the 
spirit of the originals by hearing him recite them. But of much 
greater reputation was the Comtesse de Noailles. She came one 
afternoon escorted by M. Kahn, who was a devoted admirer of 
the poetess. We were charmed at once by her radiant persona- 
lity. Effusive, demonstrative and highly temperamental, she was 
typically French. In her youth she must have been very attrac- 
tive. Before she left she confessed to Father that she had come 
to conquer but all her vanity had vanished on meeting him, and 
now she was going away a devotee and a worshipper. 

We had come to know the Karpeles sisters when they had 
visited India some years ago. Andree, the elder sister, was an 
artist and had already established a reputation in Paris. Suzanne 
was a student of Sanskrit. Their devotion to Father was un- 
bounded. and throughout our stay in France their services were 
entirely at our disposal. My wife became especially attached to 


1 A report of one of these was published at the time in the pages of 
the Modem Review by Sudhir Rudra who happened to be present. I was 
told afterwards that Bergson did not like the idea of a tete-a-tete being 
published without his permission. 



WITH FATHER ON THE CONTINENT 


127 


Andrde. She remained our dearest and most faithful friend ever 
since — until her death in November 1956. Without her help 
we could not have come into such intimate contact with the 
artistic and intellectual life of Paris. Paris was still the cultural 
centre of Europe. We considered ourselves fortunate in having 
been able to get a glimpse of that intense living, that atmos- 
phere of daring adventure always striving after the impossible 
in the realm of intellect and art — that rich and varied life which 
could only be found in Paris, until it was broken up by succes* 
sive political and economic upheavals in recent years. About 
this time a revolution in the art world had been brought about 
by the Impressionists and later on by the Post-Impressionists. 
The art of Cezanne, Manet, Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Rodin 
and others of this school was the current topic of conversation, 
and a storm of controversy raged round them everywhere. Nei- 
ther their paintings nor sculpture had yet found a place in any 
of the official exhibitions. We were anxious to see some of the 
paintings of this new school. Andree Karpeles took us to an 
art dealer’s shop in Place de Madeleine, where, I believe, for the 
first time a considerable collection of Impressionist and Post- 
Impressionist paintings was exhibited. The effect on us was over- 
whelming. Van Gogh especially impressed me, and my admira- 
tion for this mad artist has not waned in the least during all 
these years. 

Father had found a warm welcome in the home of Professor 
and Madame Sylvain Levi. They lived in a flat close to the 
Halle and the Jardin des Plantes, in surroundings not at all 
attractive. But once inside the living rooms of the Levis, the 
drab and uninviting surroundings were forgotten. There was 
such a homely atmosphere and the motherly attentions of 
Madame Levi seemed so pleasing that instantly everybody felt 
at ease. Prof. Levi was regarded as the doyen of Indological 
scholarship in the West. A great pundit, but possessed withal 
of a keen sense of humour and a sociable nature, his students 
simply adored him. His relationship with his students had much 
of the character of our traditional relationship between guru and 
chela. It was during these visits to their flat that Father proposed 
and it was settled that Prof. Levi would come to Santiniketan 
as the first Visiting Professor from abroad. 

Father was very keen to meet two writers whom he consi- 



128 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


dered the most eminent among the literary personalities of 
France. Although Andre Gide had translated Gitanjali some 
years back. Father had not yet met him. Romain Rolland’s 
books had convinced Father that he had much in common with 
him. But he had not met Rolland either. Strangely enough, 
whenever Father mentioned his desire to meet Romain Rolland 
our French friends somehow or other avoided the subject. By 
his attitude towards the defeated Germans, Rolland had become 
a persona non grata in France and nobody cared to help us to 
find him, although we discovered that he was then living in 
Paris. With great difficulty I secured his address, and one day 
walked up many flights of dingy stairs to a flat on the top floor 
of an apartment house and knocked. I had never met Rolland 
nor even seen any photograph of the author. A frail-looking, 
oldish figure of a schoolmaster type opened the door and I 
was not much impressed by his appearance. The name was so 
much more romantic. His books and his name had conjured up 
in my imagination the picture of a very attractive personality. 
Now that I had met him at last I did not know what to say. 
1 soon found out Rolland did not speak a word of English, and 
my smattering of French was of little use. So I hastily left with- 
out fulfilling my mission. We eventually came to know Rolland 
intimately but that was long afterwards when he had settled in 
Switzerland. 

With Andre Gide I had an even worse encounter. Whilst 
taking a morning walk with my wife and Andree Karpeles along 
the fringe of the Bois du Boulogne behind Auteuil, our friend 
pointed out a house with a curious modernistic architecture, 
saying that was where Gide lived. She also mentioned at the 
same time that he was very eccentric and never received any 
visitors. We, however, made up our minds to take our chance 
and knocked at his door. After waiting a few minutes we knock- 
ed again. Nothing however disturbed the silence of the house 
and we were on the point of going away, when suddenly the 
door was opened by a man in a flowing dressing gown. He 
stared at us for a moment, flung the doors wide open and dis- 
appeared in a trice. For a while we only saw a flying figure 
running up the stairs two at a time only to vanish in the myste- 
rious and quaint interior of the house. Andree explained it was 
.nothing but shyness that made Gide behave like this. 



WITH FATHER ON THE CONTINENT 


129 


Another very interesting person we met in Paris, not in 1920 
but four years later, was Sehora Vittoria Ocampo. She was well- 
known in her country, the Argentine, as a poet and writer and 
a patron of Art, and her reputation had spread to Paris, which 
she visited frequently. Her dignified bearing and charm of man- 
ners made her a very attractive personality. Whenever she came 
she would go straight to Father, in utter disregard of all forma- 
lities and completely oblivious of the presence of others. Her 
devotion to Father was extraordinary. She had the deepest re- 
gard and affection for him and she was willing to go to any 
length to satisfy his slightest fancy. Her imperiousness very often 
led to complications. When Father was invited to Peru to attend 
the centenary celebrations of her attainment of independence 
and was actually on his way there, it was Senora Ocampo who 
prevailed upon him to accept the hospitality of her country house 
near Buenos Aires, because she thought that he was too ill to 
undertake the arduous journey over the Andes to Peru. Later 
on it was found that her fears regarding Father’s health were 
not groundless. This almost led to a major political crisis between 
Argentine and Peru. Father got used to a chair which she hajd 
provided for him in her house. When the boat which carried 
him back to Europe was about to sail, she insisted that Father’s 
suite of cabins should be furnished by her. She had a great 
argument with the shipping company’s agents and eventually 
managed to make them removed the door of the cabin in order 
to accommodate the chair she had brought. She knew how to 
get round people and make them carry out her wishes. The 
chair is still preserved in the Rabindra-Sadana (Tagore Museum) 
as a token of Vijaya’s (so my father named her) devotion to 
Father. 

In 1930 when Father visited Paris again he brought with him 
a selection of his paintings. The artists who saw them wanted 
him to exhibit them. We made enquiries and found that to get 
up an exhibition in Paris at short notice was next to impossi- 
ble. It takes more than a year just to obtain a suitable hall. 
Father cabled to Senora Ocampo to come and help him. She 
came immediately, and, without the least effort — at least so it 
seemed to us — made all arrangements for the exhibition. The 
Theatre Pigalle was secured, the necessary publicity was arran- 
ged and the paintings displayed within a few days. This was an 



130 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


amazing feat. Our French friends would not believe that an 
exhibition could be organized at such short notice in a place 
like Paris. 

Immediately after the war it was not easy to obtain a visa to 
travel directly from France to Germany so we went over to 
Holland. There we met Dr. Frederick Van Eeden, the translator 
of Father’s books into the Dutch language. Van Eeden was a 
disillusioned idealist and as a reaction to the inhumanity of the 
war he was trying to establish a colony where plain living and 
high thinking would be strictly followed. The difficulty arose 
when his disciples preferred easy living on the plea of high 
thinking. Van Eeden’s colony met the same fate as all previous 
attempts by unpractical idealists at establishing Utopias in this 
selfish material world of ours. 

The ovation Father received, especially in Germany, was tre- 
mendous. Most of all we liked the week spent in Darmstadt. 
We had been asked to stay with the Grand Duke of Hesse. He 
was still held in great respect not because of his position or his 
relationship with the Kaiser and Queen Victoria but because of 
his easy camaraderie with the common people and his genial 
personality. His popularity had not diminished in the least even 
after the revolution. The Duke related to us how on the day 
the revolution broke out a mob came to his gate and wanted 
to take possession of the palace. They were rather nonplussed 
when he opened the gates wide and invited everybody to come 
in and enjoy themselves. His barber was leading the crowd. They 
went straight to the cellars, had their fill of wine and then with 
his permission got out all his cars and drove madly round and 
round the city. In the evening all was quiet, and the Duke re- 
mained in possession of his palace. 

During the week Father stayed in Darmstadt there was no 
official programme, no receptions to attend, no lectures to give. 
The grounds , of the palace had been thrown open to the public. 
Whenever during the morning or the afternoon a sufficient 
crowd had gathered. Father would come out and meet the peo- 
ple and talk to them. Count Hermann Keyserling, who was 
really responsible for the invitation to Darmstadt and for the 
arrangements made there, would act as interpreter. He was of 
course well qualified for this task and performed it so well that 
Father had no difficulty in carrying on discourses in philosophic 



WITH FATHER ON THE CONTINENT 


131 


cal subjects for hours with the people. They would very often 
ask questions and he would explain to them what he thought 
about the problems. I wish a verbatim report had been kept 
of those discourses. It would have given a very good indication 
of the bent of the German mind and also a clear exposition of 
Father’s ideas regarding various problems of life and philosophy. 

In the palace of the Grand Duke had gathered quite a few 
members of the Kaiser’s family. All the sons were there except 
the Crown Prince, who was at the time involved in an escapade 
of some sort. One day the second son asked me to take him to 
Father’s room where he wished to meet him quietly. I have seen 
hard-hearted Germans cry before but the way in which the prince 
broke down and wept before Father was a revelation. At the 
end he presented Father with a specially designed vase which he 
said represented his sentiment more than he could express. For 
myself I received a cigaratte case with the Hohenzollern emblem. 

On Sunday the Duke and Count Keyserling took us out for 
a drive. At one of the parks we got down and mixed with the 
holiday crowd that had gathered there. There was a little hillock 
and Father was conducted to the top where he sat on a stone 
bench and soon all the people flocked there and stood round 
in a circle on the slopes. Without any encouragement they 
burst into song. Song after song followed for nearly an hour. 
There must have been a crowd of about two thousand. There 
was nobody to lead them and yet a choir of two thousand 
voices sang without hesitation and in perfect harmony. Such a 
performance would be unthinkable outside Germany. This spon- 
taneous ovation from the common people, so beautifully ren- 
dered, touched Father deeply. We left Darmstadt with a heavy 
heart. 

Having gone to Germany it was inevitable that Father should 
go to Sweden. The acceptance of the invitation by the Nobel 
Committee was overdue. Stockholm is one of the most beautiful 
cities of Europe hence the stay there was very pleasant. At the 
official banquet Father met most of the authors whom he had 
read in translations. The King of Sweden presided and Selma 
Lagerlof acted as hostess on the occasion. Father sat between 
them. There were present besides others Knut Hamsun, Bjom- 
son, Sven Hedin, Bojer and all the notable writers of Scandina- 
via. I sat next to the Secretary of the Committee and he whis- 



132 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


pered to me the story of his discomfiture when Knut Hamsun 
had been invited to receive the Prize. The banquet table is 
always provided liberally with wines and spirits. Knut Hamsun 
was of peasant stock and rather fond of the bottle. After the 
congratulatory speeches when they looked round to where 
Hamsun had sat, expecting a reply from him, there was only 
the empty chair. He had by then slid underneath the table and 
was vainly pulling at the skirt of Selma Lagerlof to draw him- 
self up. Fortunately Hamsun behaved himself on this occasion. 

We had met Sven Hedin, the traveller, on a previous occasion. 
He had a habit of turning up unexpectedly in all sorts of places. 
Fie was at home everywhere — he had made the whole world 
his home. Father was an admirer of his travel books. Now he 
became devoted to the man. It was so easy to make friends 
with him. Sven Hedin was still smarting under the offensive 
treatment he had received from the British who had taken away 
all the honours once bestowed on him. He looked much younger 
than his age and told us that he would be again going out on an 
expedition somewhere in Central Asia. One day the Swedish 
Home Minister who came to see Father told him that his govern- 
ment would be only too pleased to offer him an army seaplane 
to go back to Berlin. Father liked the idea and a plane was 
being got ready. When Sven Hedin came afterwards to bid 
farewell, he was greatly upset on hearing of the proposal and 
warned me that I should not encourage Father to take such a 
risk. Although he loved his country, he could not allow Father 
to fiy in a Swedish plane on any account. He would not mind 
if a German piloted the machine. This was when air travel was 
still in its infancy. He immediately rang up the Ministry and 
gave them a piece of his mind. After that we had no option but 
to board a train and be ferried across the Straits. 

Coming back to Germany after Father had fulfilled a few 
lecture engagements in the north we found ourselves in the 
delightful town of Miinchen in Southern Germany. Father’s 
German publisher Kurt Wolff had invited us to spend a few 
days with him at his home there. Whilst we roamed about the 
Art Galleries and Museums Father discussed business with the 
publisher. Most of the cities of Germany are beautifully kept, 
but the little capital of Bavaria deserves special mention. We 
became enamoured of its charm. Hitler was at that time trying 



WITH FATHER ON THE CONTINENT 


133 


to enlist followers - and organizing his Social Democratic Party, 
but people hardly took him seriously then. When I was taken 
to the Beer-hall which afterwards became so notorious, the 
table where Hitler always sat with his satellites was pointed out 
to me. 

One day an Austrian lady came to call on Father. She said 
that she had come all the way from Vienna carrying invitations 
to Father to visit that city and deliver some lectures there. We 
had already decided to go back to Paris but she was insistent 
and would not take a refusal. Austria had suffered and was still 
suffering more than any other country after the war and was 
more in need of Father’s healing presence, she said, than even 
Germany. When all other persuasions failed she even offered 
remuneration for the lectures and explained that although they 
were poverty-stricken the people of Vienna would gladly go 
starving for a week in order to save a few marks to enable 
them to get a glimpse of the great poet and listen to his words. 
Since it was impossible to deny her. Father had to agree. We 
did not go to Vienna at once but took in Prague on our way. 
This gave Father an opportunity to fulfil the promise he had 
previously made to the Czechs and also to meet Prof. Win- 
ternitz for whom he had very great regard. The Bohemians had 
suffered for centuries under foreign rule. As a result of the 
Treaty of Versailles and thanks to President Wilson the people 
were enjoying freedom for the first time. They were in a 
jubilant mood and Father’s arrival just at that juncture aroused 
great joy and excitement. They tried to make the most of this 
occasion. Prof. Winternitz and Dr. V. Lesny were asked by the 
President, Dr. Masaryk, to take charge of the Poet and his party. 
Father had met Masaryk previously when we were staying at 
Cap Martin. In this way we came into close contact with the 
two learned orientalists, and the invitation Father extended to 
them then resulted in their visit to Santiniketan later on. Among 
the many invitations we received I was surprised one day to get 
two different invitation cards simultaneously from the Univer- 
sity. The mystery was solved when we discovered that after 
gaining independence the Czechs had to have a University of 
their own — separate from the former State University founded 
by the Germans ; but since buildings were scarce and could not 
be built in a day, the same building served both the universities 



134 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


with their double set of professors and students by rotation. 
Thus we were in the morning received by Prof. Wintemitz in 
the German University and in the afternoon by Dr. Lesny in the 
Czech University. 

On our way back to the hotel, I wondered why we were 
being taken by a different route. I had by this time got fairly 
familiar with the city. Suddenly the car stopped and we were 
told by the chauffeur that there was some trouble and it would 
take a few minutes to put it right. Immediately a man turned 
up and said it was a shame that the Poet should wait in the car 
and offered to take us up to his place in front of which the car 
had stopped. We were hustled out and found ourselves in a 
photo atelier. Then I remembered that this very photographer 
had been pestering me for permission to take a photo and had 
been repeatedly refused. He must have then applied to the 
chauffeur for help. I must say however that he did not waste 
the opportunity he had obtained by perhaps not very honest 
means. In a few minutes he took some dozens of exposures. 
He had a relay of assistants who carried the exposed negatives 
and brought back fresh ones by passing them from hand to 
hand. And these photographs turned out to be some of the best 
Father had ever had taken. 

In Prague we had felt so much at home, thanks to our 
professor friends, Wintemitz and Lesny, that we felt sad to have 
to leave these hospitable people and their beautiful city crowded 
with ancient palaces and fortresses. But Vienna beckoned to us 
and Vienna had a charm of its own, although the war had left 
her population in a sad plight. From an atmosphere of joy and 
happiness at the sudden attainment of an unhoped for freedom 
we found ourselves within a few hours amongst a people living 
in semi-starvation and eating out their hearts in utter despon- 
dency. Such was the state of the continent of Europe after the 
first World War. Whilst crossing frontiers we had very often to 
witness extreme contrasts of this nature. I shall never forget an 
incident that occurred when we went over to Holland from 
France. At that time we were not sure that we would be per- 
mitted to go to Germany. But Father was most anxious to 
meet Professor and Mrs. Meyer Benfey who had translated his 
books So he had asked them to come over from Hamburg to a 
village in Holland where we were to be the guests of Mrs. Van 



WITH FATHER ON THE CONTINENT 135 

Eeghen. They arrived at night and we met them next morning 
at the breakfast table. The table was overloaded with heaps of 
fruit, bread, butter, cheese, cream and all kinds of rich fare. 
The two emaciated Germans sat there in silence and would not 
touch any of it. After a time tears began to trickle down their 
cheeks. They had not seen such profusion for the last five years. 
And Holland was next door to Germany. 

Vienna was a gay city under the Hapsburg emperors. It was 
a doomed city after the war. The people went about with 
haggard emaciated faces dressed in tattered clothes. But it was 
wonderful to see that they had not lost their intense craving 
for art and such things as they considered really mattered. We 
found that theatres, concerts, opera houses and lecture halls 
were crowded as usual. People would starve themselves in order 
to save money to buy tickets for these places. 

Wagner’s Die Meistersinger was being given in the Opera 
House at this time. We persuaded Father to go and hear it. 
Prof. Wintemitz who had accompanied us from Prague ex- 
plained the story and during the performance interpreted the 
music. To an Indian, Western music is too foreign to under- 
stand. Never before had I even tried to understand classical 
operatic music. Although Die Meistersinger is perhaps the most 
difficult of Wagner’s operas, we were able to follow and appre- 
ciate most of it, so well did the Professor interpret it to us. 
Of course by the time it was over our heads felt like bursting. 
What seems to me incomprehensible and in a way against all 
canons of art, is that Western music should not rest content only 
by arousing the emotions but should try to lead every emotion 
constantly to an impossible climax of passion. 

True to her word the Austrian lady, who was responsible for 
bringing us to Vienna and arranging for the lectures given by 
Father, offered a handsome sum of money as honorarium. 
Father handed back the whole amount with the request that it 
be spent for providing nourishment to the starving children of 
Vienna. I was told afterwards that this gift endeared Father to 
the Austrians more than anything else. 



136 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Visit to Italy 

The visit to Italy in 1926 on the invitation of Mussolini gave 
rise to much misunderstanding both in India and other countries. 
Prof, and Mrs. P. C. Mahalanobis had been selected by Father 
to accompany him. At the last moment Father insisted that my 
wife, our daughter Nandini and myself should also go with him. 
So we were quite a big party. Mussolini had appointed Prof. 
Carlo Formichi to act as guide and take charge of all arrange- 
ments in Italy. Formichi had spent a year at Santiniketan as a 
visiting professor and therefore we knew him quite well. He 
was a likeable person and made us feel quite at home imme- 
diately on landing at Naples and we thought we would be spared 
the burden of an officially conducted tour. One incident, how- 
ever, gave us a warning. Leonard K. Elmhirst had come from 
England to meet us. Young Leonard had completely captured 
the heart of Father during his trip to the Argentine and he was 
overjoyed to find him now in Italy. Laughingly remarking that 
only an Englishman could serve at the proper corrective to 
Mussolini, Father asked him to join the party. A special train 
had been ordered to take us from the docks at Naples to Rome. 
Leonard hastened to fetch his belongings and buy a ticket. In 
the meantime we were hustled into the train by Formichi and 
without warning, it started. We looked out for our English 
friend. Just as the train was steaming out of the platform and 
gathering speed we saw him jump into it in spite of the gesticu- 
lations of Formichi warning him off. From this incident Leo- 
nard took the hint that his company would not be looked upon 
with favour by the authorities and left after a few days. I need 
not dwell at length on the splendid receptions given to Father 
everywhere he went. These are well-known from reports pub- 
lished at the time. But a few details which are not so well-known 
may prove to be of interest even now. 

Whilst we were still in Rome and Father had given interviews 
to newspaper reporters and replied to public addresses, Maha- 
lanobis and myself began to suspect that Father was not being 
correctly reported in the papers. Our friend Andree Karpeles, 
who had now a Swedish husband and had come to Rome partly 
to meet us and partly to make her husband acquainted with 
Italy, confirmed our suspicions as she could read Italian. We 



VISIT TO ITALY 


137 ’ 


tried to pick up some knowledge of Italian ourselves but not 
daring to rely on this, employed an Austrian lady who knew 
both English and Italian to translate the reports. The transla- 
tions were not satisfactory. We discovered that she was a well- 
known international spy and was in the pay of Mussolini. 

By a strange coincidence we found that Rome had become 
the rendezvous of a large number of our old friends and 
acquaintances just when we were there. The presence of Mrs. 
Vaughan Moody in addition to that of Leonard Elmhirst, 
Andree Karpeles and her husband Dal Hogman was a pleasant 
surprise. These friends brought also their friends to the Grand 
Hotel where we had put up. Father was in a very happy mood ; 
he enjoyed good company and there was no lack of it during 
the days we spent in Rome that summer. Mrs. Moody suggest- 
ed one day that Father should not leave the city without meeting 
the philosopher Benedetto Croce. Father, of course, had been 
wanting to meet him but did not know exactly how to bring 
it about not having any previous acquaintance with him nor 
knowing where he lived. Prof. Formichi was not too anxious 
to help. Mrs. Moody brought a young officer of the Italian 
army who knew Croce well and who offered to bring him to 
Father without anybody getting wise about it. Being an officer in 
the army who owed his allegiance to the King, he rather 
relished the idea of doing Mussolini in the eye, just for once. 
Father told him not to be in a hurry. He would ask the Duce 
himself to arrange the interview. Father did ask him when they 
met. Mussolini immediately ordered Formichi to arrange the 
meeting. Now that permission had been obtained the problem 
arose how to arrange that Croce should be able to talk freely 
with Father without the presence of Mussolini’s agents. The 
young officer again offered his help. He flew to Naples and 
brought Croce the next morning at five o’clock, before anybody 
was up. Father had an uninterrupted talk for many hours with 
the grand old man of Italy, and was sitting at breakfast with 
him in his room, when Prof. Formichi turned up. I was in the 
corridor mounting guard and when he learnt from me that 
Father was closeted with a visitor who was none other than 
Croce, he got very excited. It was amusing to witness the tear- 
ing of hair and gnashing of teeth that followed. 



138 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


With regard to the interview, I do not know what 1 the two 
great men discussed for so long — none of us were present — but 
that Father was pleased is evident from a letter he wrote to 
Duke Scotti immediately afterwards : 

With some difficulty I secured a glimpse of your great philoso- 
pher Croce. For my delight is in meeting the heroes of the free 
mind. When we come to Europe it is to have the inspiration of 
the liberty of thought and of creative spirit and not to be be- 
wildered by the spirit of the athletic vigour of your efficiency 
which you seem to have newly borrowed from America, the 
continent which seems to believe that growing fat is to be grow- 
ing great and is therefore suspicious of idealism and free expres- 
sion of truth. 

On our first visit to Italy in 1925 Duke Scotti had received 
us in Milan. Belonging to one of the most ancient and noble 
families of Italy, he was a true aristocrat and in addition a 
good scholar responsible for founding the Circolo Filologico 
Milanese in Milan. Everybody loved and respected him. But 
Mussolini did not like the influence he had over the people in 
Milan. Although the Fascist revolution had started in that city 
and it was from there that Mussolini marched towards the south, 
the northerners never became ardent followers of the Duce. 
We soon came to know that he had sent his trusted mistress to 
the Hotel Cavour where we were staying to keep a watch on 
Father and the nature of his intimacy with Duke Scotti. On this 
visit the Duke as well as people that we met talked freely with 
regard to the political situation in Italy. But when we returned 
in 1926 the circumstances had changed. The Fascists had gained 
a stronger hold over the north, and people were quaking with 
fear and keeping their feelings to themselves. When we met the 
Duke, he was a changed man. He dared not do more than pay 
a formal call. We could see that it was painful for him to keep 
himself under such control. In order that Father should not 
take away a wrong impression he sent his near relative, the 
sister of the King, to meet Father secretly in Turin, not only 
to explain his conduct and tell Father about the sufferings of 
their family under the Fascist regime but to hand over som,e 
papers containing evidence of the barbarous treatment meted 

1 The interview was briefly reported by P. C. Mahalanobis in the 
Visva-Bharati Quarterly for October, 1926. 



VISIT TO ITALY 


139 


out to intellectuals who were unwilling to prostitute their souls 
at the altar of Fascism. We had not been feeling very happy 
over the false publicity given to Father’s visit by the Fascist 
Press. We had heard whispers of the atrocities committed by the 
hirelings of Mussolini. These documents sent by the Duke con- 
firmed our surmise that all was not well behind the apparent 
prosperity and happiness of the people. Father could do nothing 
so long as he was in Italy to remove the impression that he 
had become enamoured of Mussolini’s rule. He therefore be- 
came anxious to get to Switzerland where he could obtain an 
open forum and speak out his mind. Romain Rolland had settled 
down at Villeneuve, a very quiet resort on Lake Geneva. We 
decided to go there. But there still remained Venice and Turin 
to complete our tour programme in Italy. The people of these 
two cities were insisting that Father should go there. Venice had 
its own attraction and Turin was on our way to Switzerland. So 
the invitations that continued to pour in through letters and 
telegrams and even deputations, were finally accepted, and we 
went first to Venice. 

The reception given to Father on arrival by the city fathers 
and other dignitaries was interesting and impressed us by its 
medieval character. Venice still kept up its old customs and 
traditions. We could well imagine similar receptions being 
accorded to some royalty visiting the ancient city of the Doges 
in the Middle Ages. But a rude shock was received when we 
were taken to our hotel accompanied by all these officials dress- 
ed in richly decorated costumes on a fleet of very modem 
motor boats noisily hooting their sirens to proclaim their 
modernity. Whilst Father was busy receiving deputations and 
attending official functions we younger people used sometimes 
to enjoy ourselves on the quiet by going out in gondolas and 
wandering aimlessly through the maze of canals, traversing the 
city, watching the life of the people and occasionally coming 
across interesting relics of the past. We avoided the Grand 
Canal, since much of its character had been spoilt by the tourist 
traffic. On hearing my wife talk about our interesting experi- 
ence and of the comfort of being able to move about freely 
without being escorted by officials Father bemoaned his fate 
and said we were a heartless and selfish lot of youngsters. 
Spurred by his admonition we very quietly engaged a gondola 



140 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


early next morning and slipped out with Father on a tour of 
the canals before anybody could know. When we returned to 
the Grand Hotel after having thoroughly enjoyed our trip 
(Father rarely had any privacy when travelling abroad and as 
a matter of fact not much even in India) the hotel was in an 
uproar. The manager had collected the whole staff and was 
making enquiries as to how and where the Poet had disappeared. 
The telephone was kept busy and the police were being asked 
to send out patrol boats to make a search of the canals. But 
what amused us most was the sight of Professor Formichi in 
utter desperation, running about the hotel shouting and gesticu- 
lating as only an Italian can. Even a temptingly hot omelette 
on the breakfast table afterwards could not mollify him. 


Frontiers in Europe 

The tour of 1926 was a memorable one for various reasons. For 
those who had not been with Father on this tour, it is impossi- 
ble to imagine the immense popularity and the ovation with 
which he was received in every country. At every place he visit- 
ed he received not only a princely reception by the government 
officials as well as the populace but was treated with the pro- 
found respect due to a prophet. At every railway station 
huge crowds would gather to have darsan or just touch the hem 
of his robe— a sight which hardly fitted in with our conception 
of the rationalistic and unemotional people of the West. From 
one end of Europe to the other we were carried along on the 
crest of this emotional tide. Towards the end of the tour we 
found ourselves in a more oriental setting in the Southern Bal- 
kans. After a short stay at Sofia, crowded with engagements and 
public receptions, we left this pretty capital of the Bulgars on 
the special train ordered by the king, and escorted by a host 
of officials, journalists and writers for a little town on the Roma- 
nian frontier. It was a very short journey but the preparations 
for it were elaborate in the extreme. We had by this time be- 
come quite accustomed and almost indifferent to hearty wel- 
comes, but such a demonstrative farewell seemed rather unusual. 
However, the royal suite of carriages soon reached its destina- 
tion and we found ourselves on a wharf overhanging the banks 
of the Danube, which is the natural eastern boundary between 



A SWISS PEASANT 


141 


the two countries. The river at these lower reaches is fairly 
wide and did indeed remind us of the Ganges. But imagine our 
surprise when we had to embark a battleship cruiser, gaily deco- 
rated with flags and buntings, to be ferried across the river to 
the Romanian port-town on the opposite bank. This we did to 
the accompaniment of gun salutes and a brass band playing 
their loudest the national songs of the country. While all this 
noise was going on we noticed a certain amount of curiosity 
and eagerness on the part of our hosts scanning the scene of 
the opposite bank which we were approaching. This feeling 
very soon changed to one of amusement and then suddenly to 
hilarious mirth as the cruiser was banked on the side of a deso- 
late pier with only one solitary person, who stood gesticulating 
and tearing his hair and gnashing his teeth at the approaching 
boat. A final salvo of guns and we were courteously escorted 
down the gangway into the arms of this wild-looking gentle- 
man. As the boat moved out we could hear another loud burst 
of laughter and then the brass band followed making incoherent 
noises. No explanation was offered to us at the time for the 
reason of these outbursts of vociferous mirth. The explanation 
came later from the disconsolate gentleman who received us 
and who happened to be the station master of the tiny railway 
terminus. The Bulgars had seen to it that no definite informa- 
tion of the time of our arrival reached the Romanian govern- 
ment, so that there would be no previous arrangements wel- 
coming Father and conveying our party to the Romanian capital. 
The discomfiture of the Romanians on this occasion must have 
given the Bulgars many an hour of enjoyment afterwards. 

A Swiss Peasant 

A summer holiday in the surroundings of St. Moritz, Switzerland, 
is a delightful experience. We were particularly fortunate in 
having the company of some Hungarian friends, which made 
the holidays still more enjoyable. We had chosen a comfortable 
but secluded hotel beside the lake at Silsmaria, just far enough 
from the sports-mad crowds that generally infest the famous 
summer resort. Our group of friends included the famous Hun- 
garian violinist, Huberman. But we saw very little of him as he 
used to shut himself up in his suite and could rarely be persua- 



142 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


ded to come down to the dining-room. We came to know of 
some of his idiosyncrasies. Whenever he had to travel, not one 
but several contiguous suites and sometimes the whole floor had 
to be booked for him. Moreover, he always carried padded quilts 
which had to be fixed on to the doors and windows. Even after 
these precautions had been taken to make his room perfectly 
soundproof, he would complain of the noise. 

One afternoon an excursion had been arranged to the Italian 
frontier. We sped on motor cars down winding roads through 
deep gorges and pine-covered valleys to this tiny hamlet border- 
ing on Italy. We stopped opposite a house where grew some 
palm trees and as I stood admiring these in such strange and 
foreign surroundings, a Hungarian friend suggested that we 
should call and find out more about the proprietor who had 
such taste. A very uncouth looking man came out and beckoned 
us to go inside. But we had to discover one amongst our party 
who knew the particular dialect spoken amongst the peasants 
in this part of Switzerland before we could understand a word 
of what he said. One by one the whole party was introduced to 
him. When the names of my wife and myself were mentioned 
the man opened his mouth in astonishment and enquired if we 
had any connection with the Poet. When the relationship was 
explained to him his astonishment knew no bounds and he be- 
gan to shake with excitement. He ran inside, shouted for his sis- 
ter and then catching hold of our hands dragged us upstairs to 
a room which to our great surprise we found filled from floor 
to ceiling with books. All the German translations of my father’s 
works were there. But all this was nothing when to our intense 
astonishment the man, dressed in the usual costume of the Swiss 
peasantry, with his rough hands pulled out a Sanskrit classic and 
began to recite poem after poem in the original. Through our 
interpreter I learnt that some years ago he had come across a 
translation of two lines from the Upanishads in a German book. 
These appealed to him so much that then and there he made 
up his mind to send for some Sanskrit books in order to learn 
the language and to read the original of those translations. His 
knowledge of Sanskrit which he had to pick up by himself 
without any help from anyone in that lonely spot in the moun- 
tains of Switzerland, forty miles away from any railway, seemed 
to me to cover a wide range of sudies in literature and philoso- 



A SWISS PEASANT 


143 


phy. We then met the sister who said that she was passionately 
fond of Chitra, The Home and The World and The Post Office, 
Every evening she went out to give readings from these books 
to the other peasants of the village. For her livelihood she made 
leather cushions with Indian designs. The models of the designs 
were taken from an old bat-tala edition of the Ramayana ; how 
she secured it is a mystery. 

We returned home much richer by our contact with the pea- 
sant savant and the spontaneous homage of the two simple un- 
sophisticated souls to cultural India made us feel inordinately 
proud of our heritage. 



Potisar 





In between the years spent in travels abroad with Father, my 
time was mostly spent at Santiniketan. The management of the 
estates, however, remained in my charge and I had necessarily 
to pay occasional visits to Shelidah and to Potisar. I greatly 
enjoyed these visits, as they helped to renew the memories of 
my boyhood days, spent in pleasant adventures amidst these 
surroundings. Some years after the first World War, urgent busi- 
ness took me to Potisar for a few days. 

A long and tedious journey in a jolting train came to an end 
and with a joyful eagerness, as when one is about to meet a 
long-lost friend, T boarded the house-boat which was to carry 
me to Potisar. The boat moved without making any fuss and 
with hardly any apparent hurry, but soon the railway bridge 
over the river, the ugly sheet-iron sheds that cluster round every 
wayside station in Bengal, were left far behind and out of sight. 

The river Atrai is not one of the many rivers that have a wide 
reputation in our country. It is hardly known to outsiders. Its 
history does not go back to ancient times. It is not mentioned 
in the Mahabharata . Pilgrims do not crowd its banks on holy 
days, to dip in its waters and purify their souls. This river is 
one of the multitude of similar obscure streams meandering 
aimlessly for hundreds of miles through the verdant plains of 
Bengal. It seems to be conscious of its insignificance, and tries 
to find its way out willy-nilly through wide stretches of paddy 
land, often spreading out and losing itself in formless swamps. 
It would then suddenly make up its mind boldly to enter a 
village and, when half through, would gently turn round a court- 
yard with apologies to its owner and disappear again into the 
wilderness. And never during its endless sinuous course would 



POTISAR 145 

it have the courage to approach a big market or a prosperous 
town. 

As I was carried along the sluggish current of this Atrai river, 
I soon fell in with its mood. Time lost its measured value. The 
necessity of arriving at a destination vanished. I drew the easy- 
chair close to the window and gazed silently at the slowly rece- 
ding landscape. On both sides of the bank were laid ingenious 
fishing traps of various shapes and sizes. A procession of girls, 
with their rustic saris drawn over their heads and holding shin- 
ing brass pitchers clasped to their lithe bodies, wound their way 
to the bank where the path from the village dipped into the 
river, and where with clamorous shouts naked children splashed 
about in the water. A flock of tame ducks gliding on the water 
drew away towards the opposite bank. At the next turning of 
the river the inner courtyard of a cluster of thatched cottages 
lay exposed to view by the bank with a bamboo fencing to 
which still hung a cucumber climber. On one side was a stack 
of paddy brought fresh from the fields and on the other stood 
a couple of old women with long poles husking the paddy in 
a wooden bowl. Watching from the river as it wound through 
the peaceful hamlets, the panorama of the daily life of these 
simple folk was revealed to me ; the drudgery of the men in the 
fields, the monotonous routine of daily housekeeping of the 
women, their occasional recreations and rare amusements. I sat 
gazing and watching with interest every little detail, until sudden- 
ly the feeling that I had no right to such an intimate view of a 
life that was not my own, made me turn indoors, ashamed of 
my curiosity. 

But this picture of the serene life of the peasantry in a comer 
of Bengal, would be present even when I sat alone inside the 
cabin. My thoughts would go back to the primitive age, and 
still the same picture would appear. I review the long history 
of India with its rise and fall of civilisations, with its devasta- 
ting invasions and internecine wars, and yet I can see no change 
in the picture of the villages that I have just seen. I begin to 
wonder what it is that has carried this life unbroken and un- 
-affected through the centuries of a chequered political history 
characterized by kaleidoscopic changes. Is there a hidden 
-strength, a principle of social cohesion stronger than that which 
knits the chemical atoms together, an elemental force of which 


in 



146 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


we are still unaware, that has kept the life on the land un- 
changed through the ages ? Or is it just its amorphous character, 
lack of all organisation, its entirely negative aspect that has 
given it an enormous pliability to adjust itself to all conditions ? 

In such a confused state of mind I disembark at a village and 
meet a group of elderly people. I am eager to question them, 
to find an answer to the problem which is worrying me. Sitting 
on a primitive cane chair in the low-roofed verandah of a 
cottage, with my hosts squatting on a mat in front of me, most 
of them wearing only a loin-cloth and passing the hookah made 
of coconut-shell to one another, I imagine myself transported 
to the Middle Ages, holding a Panchayat over some knotty social 
problem concerning the village. 

An old man with flowing white beard gets up and says : 
‘Babuji, what is the use of all this talk ? I don’t think our young 
men will do anything much with all the rubbishy reforms they 
glibly expound to us. Give us a Lenin and everything will be 
changed.’ 

The spell was broken. I got up and hurried back to my boat. 



Father As l Knew Him 


It would appear presumptuous on my part to attempt an assess- 
ment of my father’s genius about which so much has already 
been written and I dare say more will be written. Father him- 
self has given us his reminiscences and unburdened himself to 
many friends in his numerous letters. It will be noticed, how- 
ever, that his reminiscences are not so much a chronicle of 
events as the story of an inner unfoldment. It is not easy to 
understand a man of genius. The bare facts of life are a poor 
commentary on the almost imperceptible working of a most 
sensitive mind. An ordinary mind functions within the narrow 
limits of work-a-day existence. A genius, on the other hand, 
transcends the limits of mundane facts. He lives in a world which 
is not always governed by physical laws. This is perhaps true of 
all creative artists, and it is particularly true of my father. He 
had so many facets to his genius ; he combined in himself the 
minds of a poet, a scientist, a philosopher and a seer. In spite 
of all attempts to understand a genius of this type, the perso- 
nality of the man remains elusive, and beyond the yardstick of 
any measurement. 

Intensely human as he was. Father’s was yet a most complex 
character. By nature extremely shy and sensitive, there was no 
knowing how he would react to men and things. He was ex- 
tremely capricious in his moods. At times he would throw off 
all reserve and entertain friends — mostly young admirers — with 
brilliant sallies of wit and humour ; at others he would withdraw 
completely within himself, making it impossible for others to 
fathom his thoughts. In his happiest moods, he could mix with 
children as though he were one of them. I have never known 



148 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


a more loving nature, and yet in all my experience I have never 
come across another man who inspired such a sense of awe and 
reverence. 

His ever-changing moods were a constant strain on his closest 
associates. It has occurred to me that very often Father did not 
want to admit even to himself his innermost feelings and con- 
victions. It was therefore difficult even for those who were near- 
est to him, to know the reasons which made him act in a parti- 
cular way. The delicacy of his own feelings, especially with re- 
gard to personal matters, and his extreme solicitude for the feel- 
ings of others, often led him to adopt devious means of hiding 
his real intentions. On many occasions my wife and I have felt 
amused when he tried these on us. 

My grandfather loved his youngest son and was delighted to 
discover unusual talent in him while still a boy. Probably for 
this reason he was very generous to him. Father was given the 
most convenient and comfortable rooms in the family house, 
and when even this did not satisfy him, grandfather helped him 
to build a separate house for himself. This house came to be 
known as the Lai Bari , because of its red colour. Father always 
liked to change his surroundings. He easily got tired of living 
in the same room or the same house for long. Santiniketan can 
boast of more than a score of houses enriched by their associa- 
tion with Father. He, therefore, felt very happy to receive this 
assistance from Maharshi, and started to build the house. My 
cousin Nitindra, who had some previous experience in the cons- 
truction of houses, undertook the work. Father suggested that 
the house should consist of two large upper and lower halls 
only, so that he would be free to alter the interior arrangements 
whenever he chose by means of movable partitions. The house 
was built according to this plan, and then when we wanted to 
move into it, we discovered that although there were the two big 
halls as desired by father — one on each floor, there was no 
staircase to connect them ! 

Although my grandfather had handed over the management 
of the estates to father, he himself controlled the expenditure. 
He was a strict disciplinarian. On the second of every month 
the accounts had to be brought and read out to him. He would 
remember every figure, and ask awkward questions whilst the 
report was being read. Father used to be afraid of this day of 



FATHER AS I KNEW HIM 149 

trial, like a school-boy going up for his examination. We children 
would wonder why our father was so afraid of his father. 

Maharshi was once pleasantly surprised to hear that my father 
had written, not the usual kind of poems young men write, but 
a book of devotional songs. He sent for him one day and asked 
him to read out all the poems to him. For hours Maharshi lis- 
tened with rapt attention while Father recited the poems, and 
then when he began to sing, tears silently rolled down his cheeks. 
As soon as Father had finished, Maharshi gave him the where- 
withal to publish the poems. It is said that he told Father, ‘I 
wish I were a king to reward you adequately. But being what I 
am. I can only give you so much.’ The book was published as 
Naivedya. The translations of many of the poems contained in 
Naivedya have been included in the English Gitanjali. 

Father never treated any of his children harshly, nor did he, 
on the other hand, lavish sentimental affection upon them. I do 
not remember any occasion when Father subjected any of us to 
physical punishment. Temperamentally it was impossible for him 
to use violence. During all the years of my boyhood and youth, 
only thrice have I seen him get really angry with me. As a 
child I did not like bathing with its inevitable rubbing and scrub- 
bing as though the body was something meant to be maltreated 
regularly every day. One day my mother, having altogether fail- 
ed to make me submit to this ordeal, appealed to Father. He 
took hold of me, placed me on the top of an almirah, and left 
me there without any scolding — not even a single harsh word. 
Mother had no more trouble with me at bath-time. 

The next occasion was at Shelidah. It was the last day of the 
Durga Puja. I had been told that they had a regatta on this day 
on the opposite bank of the Padma at Pabna. Hundreds of river- 
craft gathered at the mouth of that very charming little river 
Ichamati, brightly lit with thousands of oil lamps. But what 
tempted me most was the boat-race that followed. A kind of fish- 
ing-boat — very narrow and long, with most graceful lines — 
would be stripped bare and manned by a score or more of oars- 
men or scullers, and these would compete in the race. Having 
lived on the banks of the mighty Padma and being the proud 
professor of a dinghy purchased by saving every pie of the 
monthly allowance of Rs. 5/- given by mother for pocket ex- 
penses, I considered myself an ‘old salt* already, and, as such. 



150 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


how could I miss this opportunity ? I cajoled the manager into 
rigging out the larger of the two pinnaces we had on the river 
and getting ready for the voyage. A voyage it would have to be 
and a daring one too, because at this time of the year with the 
river swollen by the rains — a swirling sea of water seven miles 
wide — it was no easy matter to go across. Neither did we anti- 
cipate what an adventure lay before us. Permission was easily 
obtained from Father : he never refused me such requests how- 
ever foolhardly the enterprise might be. Only he saw to it that 
we were properly equipped. We started early in the morning, and 
at the first stroke of the oars the boatmen as usual invoked 
the blessings of the water-god. 

So swift was the current that it took us the whole day to 
cross over to Pabna. We could already see the illuminations 
from a distance when the manager and my uncle began to 
fidget and suggested that we should turn back, as my father 
would expect us to return before dinner-time. But their admo- 
nitions fell upon deaf ears, and I went back to my post at the 
rudder. When we reached the place, they were all ready for the 
race. A hundred or more boats strung out in a long double row 
made the start, with a send-off chorus of hearty shouting. The 
Oxford-Cambridge boat race is a tame affair compared to this. 
T shall never forget the sight of these finely-built boats silhouet- 
ted against the soft glow of the sunset, shaped like the thin 
blade of a rapier and moving out at an incredible speed. T was 
very fortunate in being able to witness this relic of old Bengal. 
Such a regatta never again took place at Pabna. This interest- 
ing sport has disappeared altogether from Bengal. 

Clouds gathered while we were intent on the festival which 
ended with the immersion of numerous decorated images of the 
goddess. The boat turned towards the Shelidah bank in inky 
darkness, and very soon we lost our bearings. The armed escorts, 
who had accompanied us according to the custom of those days, 
fired volleys at intervals, and then listened in the hope of attract- 
ing return volleys from the ghat at Shelidah, which would help 
us to get back our sense of direction. This signalling proved 
successful. At about two o’clock in the morning we first heard 
some firing and directed the boat towards the sound. When at 
last we landed, I saw Father standing there at the ghat waiting 
for us, and one glance at the stem look on his face, faintly lit 



FATHER AS I KNEW HTM 151 

by the light of a hurricane-lantern, was enough to make us 
quake with fear. He hurried away without meeting me and did 
not so much as utter a word of reproach or anger during the 
days that followed. His silence on such occasions was more 
terrifying than a thrashing — as many others besides myself will 
testify. 

Some years later at Santiniketan, I was responsible for getting 
together a group of young teachers to go for a picnic to Surul. 
This was long before the Rural Reconstruction Institute came 
to be established at Sriniketan. We camped in the dilapidated 
Barakuthi, which had been built in the days of the East India 
Company. It was formerly the residence of the indigo planter, 
John Cheap. We made merry till the early hours of morning. 
When we returned to Santiniketan, none of the teachers were 
prepared to take their classes that forenoon, and yet no one 
dared approach Father for leave. Since it was at my instance 
that the discipline of the Asrama had been broken, I went up to 
him with a contrite heart and as brave a face as I could muster. 
Father only asked, ‘Did you enjoy yourselves V All the expla- 
nations I had thought of so carefully, were blotted out instantly 
on hearing the tone of his voice. A hasty retreat and no expla- 
nations. Never again did I try to do anything consciously that 
would displease Father. 

Recognition of his genius as a poet and a writer came to 
Father after he had reached a mature age — but he was much 
sought after and became a popular social figure while he was 
still quite young. His extremely handsome appearance coupled 
with a remarkable voice, probably partly accounted for his 
popularity. But he had to pay dearly for it. Once he was deliver- 
ing a lecture at a public meeting presided over by Bankim 
Chandra Chatter ji, the novelist. The hall was crowded and the 
lecture was long, and Father had to strain his voice. After he 
had finished, the audience started clamouring for a song. Father 
felt he could not do it after having lectured for an hour and a 
half. But when Bankim Babu also joined in the request, he 
could not very well refuse. He sang as only he could sing, 
filling the hall with his powerful but melodious voice. But he 
had overstrained himself, and his vocal chord became dama- 
ged. He had to go to Simla for a change and rest, but his voice 
was never the same again. 



152 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Father liked to dress well. In his youth he always wore the 
dhoti with a silk kurta and silk chaddar in public. He looked 
very handsome in his flowing Bengali dress, and people would 
admire the colour of the kurta or the way he wore the chaddar , 
and try to imitate him. At other times, especially when travel- 
ling, he liked to wear trousers with a buttoned-up long coat 
or achkan and a small pugree. This pleated turban, the invention 
of my uncle Jyotirindra, came to be known as the Pirali Pugree i 
Afterwards, at a much later age, he discarded the short achkan 
and took to the long flowing djibbah , or often a pair of them, 
worn with a soft cap. He was not afraid of colours and his 
favourite colour was fawn with a tinge of orange. Most people 
who have seen him at his advanced age, will associate him with 
this sober but pleasant colour. 

I would like to refer to one interesting thing in this connec- 
tion. Father and Gandhiji were great friends. Yet, outwardly 
no two people could be more unlike each other. Gandhiji in 
his loin-cloth and Father in his colourful flowing robes, presented 
a strange contrast. This could not have failed to attract public 
notice, and I have heard people make uncharitable remarks 
about Father’s extravagant tastes. It may, however, be noted 
that Father’s clothes were not necessarily made of expensive 
material. He had the peculiar knack of making the simplest 
thing look beautiful, and the most expensive thing look simple. 
Gandhiji’s loin-cloth was symbolic of the naked millions. It 
certainly had its significance. But Father’s artistic garb was not 
without its significance also. Gandhiji’s way of life, whether he 
willed it or not, encouraged a kind of austerity in our national 
life. Austerity as such had little or no appeal for Father. In a 
land of poverty where life was nothing but a story of systematic 
deprivation, austerity was not the ideal to be held up before 
the people. On the contrary, our people needed to be encouraged 
to taste the good things of life. Unfortunately, however, by a 
curious confusion of ideas, shabbiness in dress and slovenliness 
in hanits were coming to be regarded as social virtues. This 
naturally shocked Father’s artistic sensibilities. 

I think few writers have had to face such severe and unfair 
criticism as Father, during the greater part of his life. Hardly 
any of these were literary criticisms — they were acrimonious 
and sometimes even scurrilous. One obvious reason for the per- 



FATHER AS I KNEW HJM 


153 


sistence of such vituperations appearing regularly in a section of 
the Bengali press, was that the editors had early discovered that 
slandering Father paid handsomely. There was, however, a more 
subtle reason behind this. A considerable part of the public 
never felt that Rabindranath really belonged to them. He was 
born in an aristocratic family, he wrote in a style and language 
which was too individual and had nothing in common with his 
predecessors or contemporary writers ; moreover he belonged to 
the Brahmo Samaj, a non-conformist movement to reform Hindu 
orthodoxy and hence regarded as a menace to society. It is per- 
haps for these reasons that, besides the hack writers, even literary 
coteries presided over by such well-known men as Dwijendralal 
Roy and Chittaranjan Das sought to undermine the influence 
of Father over the youth of the country. I cannot say that 
Father was indifferent to the campaign carried on against him. 
It deeply pained him to find that people whom he liked and 
whom he had befriended in their early careers, turned out to be 
his bitterest critics. But never did he reply to the attacks made 
on him, except once in a poem addressed to the detractor, Nindu - 
ker prati , and that too was in a lofty strain with not one word 
of reproach. 

All his life he had felt lonely, an intellectual loneliness which 
is the common experience of a genius of his order. Undoubt- 
edly he had many friends — but they were young admirers, who 
could not give him the companionship that he craved for. But 
it did bring considerable cheer to his otherwise lonely life to 
feel the warmth of their devotion and love for him. Prominent 
amongst these adherents were Satyendranath Datta, Charu- 
chandra Bandyopadhyay, Manilal Ganguly, Hemendrakumar 
Roy, Dhirendranath Datta, Sourindramohan Mukherji, Premankur 
Atorthi, Narendra Deb, Amal Home, Karunanidhan Bandyo- 
padhyay, Prabhatkumar Mukherji, Jatindramohan and Dwijendra 
narayan Bagchi. This young group of poets and writers used 
regularly to meet in a house at Sukea Street, where Manilal 
Ganguly had his office. Ganguly was the manager of the Kantik 
Press and the publisher-editor of the magazine Bharati . They 
were staunch admirers of everything that concerned Father and 
took up such a militant attitude whenever they considered his 
‘honour’ in need of being defended, that they came to be called 
‘Rabindriks\ 



154 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


Very few knew or realized the struggle which Father had to 
carry on his educational experiment at Santiniketan. When the 
school was established, he had difficulty in getting pupils and 
those that came were mostly of the difficult type. People looked 
down upon the institution and ridiculed Father’s attempt to in- 
troduce new ideas in education. It took years before people be- 
gan to recognize the Santiniketan school as anything else but a 
reformatory. To this was added the suspicion of the British 
Government, and the secret circulars that were issued to warm 
officials from sending their children to Santiniketan. Considered 
from a worldly point of view, it was indeed foolhardy of Father 
to have launched into this misadventure, at a time when he 
hardly had enough to support himself and his family and was 
actually in debt on account of the failure of the Kushtia busi- 
ness. He had to dispose of everything he possessed including 
the ornaments belonging to my mother, in order to start the 
school. Among other things he had to sell his gold watch and 
chain — a wedding gift — to a friend. It was a familiar object to 
us when we were children. We liked to flick open the lid to look 
at the monogram engraved on the inside. It was therefore a very 
pleasant surprise to me when the lady who had purchased it 
from Father many years ago, gave this watch and chain as her 
wedding present to me in 1910. It has remained a precious heir- 
loom with me ever since. 

Financial difficulties increased with the years, as the school 
expanded. Father had to go to Sir Taraknath Palit, father of 
his friend Loken Palit, to borrow money. This debt he was un- 
able to repay during Sir Tarak’s lifetime. Among other assets, the 
amount Father owed him was tranferred to the University of 
Calcutta when Sir Tarak died leaving all his property to the 
University. This debt was a constant source of worry to Father. 
Whilst Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, had showered all her 
favours on him, Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, evidently 
ignored him. Misfortune and bad luck persistently dogged 
his steps. The lecture-tour in the U.S.A. in 1916-17 was a pheno- 
menal success. It brought enormous returns. Father did not 
spare himself, because he felt that at last he would be able 
not only to pay off all his outstanding debts but would no longer 
be obliged to beg for the funds necessary to develop Santiniketan 
according to his desire. But his ill-luck intervened.- The Bureau 



FATHER AS I KNEW H^M 


155 


that was handling his lecture-tour very conveniently went bank- 
rupt towards the end of the tour, and instead of the several 
lakhs due, all that Willie Pearson, who was with Father on that 
tour, could with difficulty realize were a few thousand rupees, 
just sufficient to pay off Father’s debt to the University. 

The sale of Father’s books in the continental countries of 
Europe should have brought him a fortune. But his fame rea- 
ched its height immediately before the first World War, and this 
effectively prevented the realization of royalties. 

Father had to go constantly on begging missions on behalf 
of his institution. I was with him in New York in 1920 when an 
organized effort was made to collect funds in America. 

With the help of Mrs. Willard Straight and Mr. Morgen- 
theau (senior), quite a group of Wall Street millionaires had been 
induced to open the subscription list with handsome donations. 
Morgentheau, besides his official position — he had been the U.S. 
Ambassador to Turkey — was himself a Wall Street financier. To 
bring matters to a head, he gave a banquet at his house to 
which about a hundred of his millionaire friends were invited. 
We were assured that Father would get a few million dollars 
before he left the shores of America. But not even a few thou- 
sands came to him. 

Father returned to India bitterly disappointed. The weeks 
spent in New York in a hotel amidst the din and bustle of that 
noisy city, with the sole object of raising funds, was positively 
repugnant to him. His sensitive nature rebelled against it. In 
his letters to Charlie Andrews written during this period, he 
poured out the anguish of his soul. It was a bitter trial for me 
also. I felt I was responsible for encouraging Father to go 
through this humiliating and painful experience. We afterwards 
came to know that Wall Street closed its purse-strings at the 
last moment because of a tip sent through Morgan that financial 
help to a private institution in India would not be looked upon 
with favour by the British Government. 

Although compelled to seek help for his institution, the idea 
of begging money from monied men, just the people who were 
least capable of appreciating him and his work at Santiniketan, 
was painful to him. He would shrivel up when it actually came 
to the point where he would be expected to make the request. 
Once a friend of ours, a businessman of Bombay, had arranged 



156 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


that Father should meet the Gaekwad of Baroda and ask him 
for an endowment worthy of him. The friend told me that ho 
had found the Prince, who was living at Lausanne, in a very 
sympathetic mood and that he had already prepared the ground. 
Father would only have to invite him to lunch and casually 
mention the matter. He was sure to make a donation sufficiently 
handsome to put the institution on a sound footing once for all 
and Father would not have to undertake any more begging 
tours. I went over to Lausanne and invited the Maharajah to 
lunch with Father at our hotel in Geneva. At the lunch-table 
a very interesting conversation was started and carried on from 
one topic to another, and so absorbed were they that neither 
my friend nor myself could find an opening to turn it in the 
direction we wanted. At last Father noticed the look of alarm 
in our faces and abruptly told the Maharajah of his mission, and 
wound up his appeal for funds with the advice that if the Maha- 
rajah did decide to give any money to him, he should do it as 
though he were throwing it into the water. On hearing this my 
friend gave me a hard kick under the table. The Maharajah kept 
silent and left without making any promise. 

It was left to Mahatmaji to realize the tragedy of circums- 
tances that made a poet and a man like Father undertake ardu- 
ous tours to collect funds for the Visva-Bharati. Once when 
Mahatmaji met him in Delhi in 1936, and found that Father 
was trying to raise money through performances of his dance- 
drama Chitrangada by the students of Santiniketan, he asked us 
what was the amount of deficit which was worrying Father. Be- 
fore Father left, Mahatmaji gave him a cheque for the amount 
which he had raised in the meantime and made Father promise 
that he would never again go out on such a mission. 

The money thus secured for us by Mahatmaji came like a 
windfall, and there was great jubilation amongst those who 
formed the party. Father, however, was not jubilant ; on the 
contrary, he looked somewhat depressed. It did not take me 
long to guess his feelings. The promise obtained from him by 
Gandhiji was too heavy a price to pay for the immediate finan- 
cial relief. While these arduous journeys meant a lot of physical 
strain for him, one could easily see that he inwardly enjoyed 
being with the troupe and witnessing his creation take form in 
melody and colour and movement. To promise not to accom- 



FATHER AS I KNEW HJM 10/ 

pany these parties would deprive him of one of the greatest joys 
of his life. 

Music and dramatic performances had always formed an 
essential part of his educational endeavour. By education he 
meant the fullest self-expression and the development of aesthe- 
tic sensibilities. His educational experiment was virtually a search 
for a fuller way of life. It was the success of this experiment 
that lent meaning and significance to what is known as Santini- 
ketan education. Whilst Santiniketan functioned in its rural 
retreat away from towns and cities, her message travelled far 
and wide through her music, her painting, her dance-recitals and 
dramatic performances. I do not think I presume too much 
when I say that Satiniketan has made no small contribution to 
the moulding of public taste in Bengal, and for that matter 
throughout the rest of India. 

Father’s essentially optimistic and cheerful temperament com- 
bined with a sense of humour, helped him to overcome the 
vicissitudes that pursued him relentlessly throughout his life. 
Financial worries were the least part of them. The death of my 
mother, when he was only forty-one and in the prime of his 
creative faculties, came as the first blow. It left him with five 
children to look after. Two of my sisters were married, but my 
younger brother was only a child of eight at the time. 

Father’s worries at this period of his life were more than 
enough for any man. Besides looking after his own children, 
there were a hundred others at Santiniketan for whose upbring- 
ing he had undertaken the responsibility. And yet he was not to 
be spared other greater trials. One after the other my grand- 
father, my two married sisters and my young brother died. My 
two cousins Balendra and Nitindra, whom father loved like his 
own sons, died in the prime of their youth. The successive deaths 
of the young poet, Satish Roy, and of Mohitchandra Sen robbed 
him of two of his ablest supporters in his work for the Santi- 
niketan School. During all these years of anguish and suffering. 
Father himself was in constant pain, due to a chronic ailment. 
The fortitude with which he bore the loss of all those whom 
he loved most was remarkable. But what was even more remark- 
able was that these bereavements never made him lose his poise 
of mind, nor did his creative faculties cease to function or fail 
for a single moment. On the contrary, his loss and sorrow 



158 


ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


seemed to have had an enriching influence of their own and 
gave greater depth and significance to his writings. 

Father had an unusual capacity for work. He was gifted with 
a remarkably strong constitution. One of my uncles had seen to 
it that Father should improve and develop this natural gift by 
physical exercises during his boyhood. Besides other exercises, 
a professional gave him lessons in wrestling. As a result. Father 
looked a picture of robust health in his youth. His handsome 
appearance never failed to attract admiration wherever he went. 
His soft beard, kept trimmed during his youthful days, and long 
curls of hair added to the charm of his appearance. At a later 
age, when he had let the beard grow and wore the flowing 
dress — a double djibha — how often I have overheard people in 
the West exclaiming in hushed voices, ‘How like our Prophet ! ’ 

Even in later years I never saw him suffer from any of the 
common ailments, except from the chronic trouble he had in- 
herited. He was able to get rid of this in 1912 by an operation, 
after which he enjoyed perfect health for many years until old 
age. Throughout his life he worked all hours of the day. His 
day began at about 4 a.m., while it was still dark. Before setting 
down to work at his writing desk, he used to sit in meditation 
for half an hour or more every morning. At breakfast he liked 
company. His hour for this meal was so unusually early that 
very often the people whom he expected could not turn up. He 
used to send for them and wait till they came. This was the 
time when he was in his best form — telling humorous stories, 
cracking jokes and carrying on brilliant conversation with the 
people who gathered at the table. 

It is surprising how he could compose poems and songs, 
write novels and essays — very often all at the same time — and 
yet receive so many callers. He never liked any visitor, whatever 
his mission, to be kept waiting. His secretaries had a hard time 
whenever they tried to shield him from unnecessary intrusion. 
They would be rebuked by Father for their overzealousness. 
Father did not take any rest during the day. Even during the 
hottest days of summer, he would sit at his desk and work with 
the doors and windows wide open, absolutely indifferent to the 
hot blasts blowing around him. Most of his reading was done 
at night. There was plenty of time for this, as he did not go 
to bed till quite late. Four to five hours of sleep was all that he 



FATHER AS I KNEW HIM 


159 


needed. That he could do so much writing over and above his 
other work and the time given to visitors, was due to the ex- 
traordinary power of concentration he possessed. Nothing seem- 
ed to disturb his chain of thoughts. He could leave a poem un- 
finished, talk to someone for an hour, and then immediately go 
back and finish it, as though there had been no interruption at 
all. Neither did any change of surroundings matter. The places 
and dates given in some of his books of poems show how he 
was able to compose the poems even under impossible condi- 
tions. The only form of rest that he allowed himself when he 
was tired, was to compose songs and set them to music. Latterly, 
after he had taken to painting, that also became a favourite 
form of recreation. 

My great-grandfather. Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, when he 
visited England in 1844, had taken with him his nephew, Nabin 

Babu, who acted as a sort of secretary. In one of the letters 

Nabin Babu wrote home, we find him complaining about his 
discomfiture in managing his master’s affairs in England, be- 
cause, as he put it, ‘Babu often changes his mind’. This obser- 
vation of Nabin’s became a household word in our family, be- 

cause it applied with even greater aptness to the grandson of 
the Prince. Even Father would sometimes quote it himself to 
my wife to justify some sudden change in his plans. We, of 
course, had got used to this changeable character of his mind, 
but quite often it led to much misunderstanding and was some- 
times followed by disastrous results. Father’s receptive and 
imaginative mind would never accept anything as final. On the 
contrary, no sooner was anything decided than his mind began 
to revolt against it, and he would not be content until he ha^ 
found an excuse to alter the decision. Status quo had no mean- 
ing for him. This applied not only to his daily life, his wanting 
always to change his habitation, his food, his dress and such- 
like things, but to his creative activities as well. He was essen- 
tially a revolutionary — only his mission was not to destroy but 
to build. Whenever his mind revolted against current conven- 
tions, whether in literature, in religious beliefs, in social customs, 
in education or in politics, he would fearlessly criticize and ex- 
pose what he considered wrong or unjust. At the same time he 
had constructive ideas to offer as an acceptable alternative and 
was ready to carry them out himself if no one else dared to do 



ON THE EDGES OF TIME 


so. This spirit of revolt against accepted principles and practice, 
coupled with the desire to experiment with new ideas, persisted 
till the last day of his life. 

What struck me most was the amazing vitality of his mind. 
Never for a day did he cease to grow. Some of his boldest 
experiments in literary technique were made late in life, when 
one is loth to break new ground. He discarded rhymes and 
turned to vers libre when he was about seventy. Some of his 
stories written about the same time came perilously near to the 
vexed problem of sex and probably shocked the sensibilities of 
orthodox readers. His last book of poems, dictated a few days 
before his death to those who nursed him during his last illness, 
bore the same mark of experimentation in form and technique. 
The younger writers had much ado to keep pace with him, and 
not unoften he beat them at their own game. 

No biography, however laboriously written, could ever give 
an adequate picture of such a complex personality as his. The 
subtle nuances of a life so delicately lived could only be ex- 
pressed by a pen as delicate as his own. As a matter of fact, 
his own writings constitute the best commentary on his life. 
These reveal him as nothing else does. ‘You cannot find the 
poet in his biography,’ he says in one of his poems. Yes, the 
poet is to be found in his poems. His poems are his best life- 
story and may I conclude by saying that his greatest poem is the 
life he has lived. 



The Tagore Family Tree 
Index 


11 




I -Dwipendranath (1862-1922) — Dinendranath 

— Dwijendranath — Nitindranath 0867-1902) (1882-1935) 

(1840-1926) •— Sudhindranath 0869-1929) 

— Satyendranath j -Surendranath 0872-1940) 


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163 


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INDEX 


A Midsummer Night's Dream 
51-52 

Abanindranath 6, 13, 15, 76, 77, 
78, 81, 89, 90, 103 
Abhi 12, 83 

Achalayatan 84, 86, 87, 88 
Adelphi Terrace 106 
Adi-Kutir 44 
Adi Brahmo Samaj 44 
Agha Khan 112 
Agra 39 

Alakananda, River 40 
Allahabad 19 

All-India Theistic Society 41 
Almora 50, 53, 55 
Alwar, Maharaja of 112, 115 
Amaladidi 12, 26, 27 
America 55, 68, 71, 74, 76, 107, 
116, 117, 121, 155 
Am iel’s Journal 21 
Amulya Maharaj (Swami Sankara- 
nanda) 39 

Anderson, Prof. 1 16 
Andrews, C. F. 62, 63, 87, 101, 
155 

Animananda Swami (See Rewa- 
chand) 

Anusilan Samiti 60 

Arai, Kampo 80 

Art Movement in Bengal 76 

Ary a Samaj 41 

Ashamukul 90 

Asia 66, 67 

Asvaghosha 54 

Atorthi, Premankur 153 

Atrai, River 144, 145 

Auteuil 128 

Bach 120 
Badrinath 40 

Bagchi, Dwijendranarayan 153 
Bagchi, Jatindramohan 153 
Baghbazar 62 
Baikunther Khata 15 
Bairagya-Sadhan 89 
Balak 10 

Balendranath Tagore (Baludada) 
1, 10, 11, 14, 16, 30, 41, 157 
Ballygunge 5, 7 


Balmiki Pratibhd 82, 83, 93, 97 
Banaras 19, 33, 42, 51 
Banara9 Ghat 101 
Bandyopadhyay, Charuchandra 
153 

Bandyopadhyay, Karunanidhan 153 
Banerjea, Sir Surendranath 17, 71, 
72 

Banerjee, Gooroodas 20 
Banerji, Haricharan (Hari-babu) 
22, 45 

Banerji, Kalicharan 45 

Banerji, Monoranjan 45 

Bangadarshan 82 

Bankura 88 

Barsha-Shesh 49 

Barakuthi 151 

Baroda, Gaekwad of 156 

Basu, Bhupendranath 115 

Bavaria 132 

Beadon Street 18 

Beggar's Opera , The 121, 122 

Bela 20, 21, 52, 55 

Belur Math 38 

Bengal 5, 25, 37, 59, 60, 79, 145, 
150, 157 

Bengal Home Industries Associa- 
tion 79 

Bengal Provincial Conference 16, 
17 

Bengalee, The 71 

Benfey, Prof. & Mrs. Meyer 134 

Bergen 121 

Bergson, Henri 124, 126 
Berkeley 68 
Berlin 132 

Besant, Mrs. Annie 72, 91 

Bethune College 83 

Bharati 11, 25, 27, 153 

Bhartrihari 22, 51 

Bhairaber Boli 83 

Bhattacharya, Vidbusekhara 51, 54 

Bhuvandanga 49 

Bihar 5, 19, 94 

Bini Paisar Bhoj 15 

Binyon, Laurence 1 1 5 

Bir Chandra Manikya 83 

Birjitalao 83 

Bisarjart 83, 84 


11A 



166 


INDEX 


Bisi, Pramatha 85 
Bismarck 72, 73 
Bjornson 131 
Blount, N. 78 
Bogra 29 
Bojer 131 
Bomanji, Mr. 120 
Bombay 99, 120 
Bonnerjee, W. C. 8, 17 
Bones, Sir Muirhead 116 
Bose, Anandamohan 17 
Bose, Jagadishchandra 16, 23, 24, 
25, 59, 98 
Bose, Jatin 60 
Bose, Nandalal 78, 80, 81 
Bose, Pashupati 62 
Bourdette, Miss 74 
Bouthakuranir Hat 86 
Brah ma~ V id yal ay a 4 3 
Brahma Dharma 21, 42, 43 
Brahmo Samaj 6, 13, 41, 50, 153 
Bruhmacharya Asrama 38, 43, 47, 
48, 84, 86, 87, 125, 151 
Brazil 114 

Brimont, Comtesse de 126 
Brooke, Stopford 100 
Browning, Robert 48 
Buddha 66 
Buddha-Charit 54 
Buenos Aires 129 
Burke 71 

Calcutta University 60, 61, 124, 
154 

Cambridge 105 
Cap Martin 110, 133 
Carmichael, Lord 78, 79 
Caxton Hall 115 
Cecil, Lord Robert 115 
Cezanne 127 

Chakravarty, Ajit Kumar 45, 58, 
85, 89, 98 

Chakravarty, Haimanti 87 
Chamru 75 
Chandpal Ghat 47 
Chapman 102 

Chatterjee, Bankim Chandra 82, 
151 

Chatterji, Nayan 84, 85 
Chatterji, Sarat Chandra 81 
Chatterji, Suniti 114 


Chatterji. Tapan Mohan 85 
Chaudhuri, Sir Ashutosh 8, 97 
Chaudhuri, Nikhil 119 
Chaudhuri, Pramatha 16, 81 
Chaudhurani, Indira Devi 54 
Cheap, John 151 
Chicago 68, 108, 109 
China 85 
Chinna-Patra 54 
Chirakumar Sabha 27 
C Ultra 143 
Chitrangada 156 
Chitpur Road 18 
Choker Bali 56 
Chota Akshoy Babu 15. 16 
Chotonagpur 92 

Choudhury, Akshoy Kumar 16, 60 
Clement’s Inn 71 
Clemenceau 110 
Christie's 101 

Congress Session 1896 18 
Contemporary Review 118 
Coomara, Miss Alice 118 
Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. 79. 
98, 104 

Cosmopolitan Club 69, 70 
Cornwallis Street 83 
Corda Fraters 70 
Cotton, H. E. A. 71 
Cotton, Sir Henry 71 
Courtney, Lady 118 
Creative Unity 105 
Crescent Moon, The 107 fn 
Croce, Benedetto 137 
Currimbhoy, Sir 112 
Curzon, Lord 61 
Cuttack 29 

D’Aranyi, Mile 119 
Dacca 19, 33 

Dak Ghar (Post Office , The ) 16, 
84, 90, 110, 143 
Daksha 2 
Dante 48 

Danube, River 140 
Darjeeling 79 
Darmstadt 130, 131 
Das, Chittaranjan 10, 12, 16, 153 
Das Gupta, Kedarnath 72, 112 
Datta, Dhirendranath 153 
Datta, Satyendranath 153 



INDEX 


10 / 


Davis, Dr. Walford 107 
Deb, Narendra 153 
Denmark 103, 117 
Deuskar, Sakharam Ganesh 60 
Dev Barman, Somendra 108 
Deval, N. K. 80 

Devendranath Tagore, Maharshi 
5, 6, 13, 29, 33, 41, 42, 43, 55, 
148, 149 

Dey, Mukul 80, 119 
Dey, Sailen 78 
Dhammapada 21 
Dhrupad 15 
Dickinson, Lowes 116 
Dinendranath 38, 47, 49, 58, 87, 
89, 90, 97 

Dwarkanath Tagore, Prince 3, 4, 
9, 30, 33, 159 

Dwarkanath Tagore Lane 5 
Dwijendranath 6, 7, 11, 27 
Dyer 114 

Dyson, Sir Frank 113 
Dube, Mr. & Mrs. 115 

Easl India Company 2, 3, 4, 5, 
151 

Eden Gardens 18 
Eeden, Dr. Frederick Van 130 
Ecghen, Mrs. Van 135 
Einstein 113 

Elmhirst, Leonard K. 70, 87, 136, 
137 

England 5, 23, 25, 99, 100, 101, 
104, 109, 159 

Eucken, Dr. Rudolph 108 
Europe 90, 97, 98, 99, 109, 110, 
112, 129, 134 

Fachiri, Mr. 119 
Faridpur 29, 37 
Faust 121 
Finot, Prof. 125 
Formichi, Prof. Carlo 136, 137 
Fort William 5 
Fouchet, Prof. 125 
France 109, 110, 111, 124, 126, 
130 

Gaganendranath 6, 15, 60, 72, 74, 
76, 77, 78, 79, 81 
Galpaguchchha 15, 25, 31 


Galpa-Salpa 85 

Gandhi, Mahatma 63, 91, 152 

Ganges, River 33, 141 

Gangoly, O. C. 78 

Gangulee, Nagendranath 54, 75 

Ganguly, Manilal 153 

Ganguly, Suren 78 

Gayatri mantram 42 

Gardener , The 100, 125 

Gamier, M. 122 

Gauguin 127 

Geneva 156 

Germany 110, 134, 135 

Ghose, Kalimohan 101, 104, 105 

Ghose, Lalmohan 8, 17 

Ghose, Manmohan 8 

Ghose, Rashbehari 8, 17 

Gide, Andre 128 

Giridih 59, 94 

Gitanjali 99, 100, 101, 106, 107, 
109, 110, 117, 125, 128, 149 
Goethe 48 

Goettingen, University of 72, 73 
Gokhale, G. K. 17 
Golden Gate 68 
Goloubew, M. 79, 125 
Gooch, Editor Contemporary Re- 
view 1 1 8 

Gorai, River 19, 29, 30, 35, 37 

Govindapur 2 

Green Mansions 105 

Guha Thakurta, Monoranjan 59 

Guimet, Musee 125 

Gupta, Bihari Lai 8 

Gupta, Krishna Govinda 8 

Ha-Cha-Ha 85 
Hafiz 112 

Haidar, Asit Kumar 78, 80, 81, 90 

Hamburg 134 

Hampstead Heath 101, 113 

Hamsun, Knut 131, 132 

Harvard 99, 108, 109 

Havell, Mr. 103, 104 

Haydn 120 

Hazaribagh 53, 93 

Hedin. Sven 131, 132 

Heifetz 106 

Hesse, Grand Duke of 130, 131 
Himalayas 38 

Hitendranath Tagore (Hit-da) 1 



168 


INDEX 


Hitler, Adolf 132, 133 

Hogman, Dal 137 

Hogg Street 79 

Holland 130, 134, 135 

Home, Amal 153 

Home and the World , The 143 

Homer 102 

Honolulu 67 

Hooghly 33 

Howrah 38 

H uberman 141 

Hudson, W. H. 100, 105 

Ichamati, River 149 
Illini 71 

Illinois, University of 68, 71, 74, 
75, 107 

Indo-Aryan Languages 36 
India 59, 69, 77, 78, 109, 114, 117, 
125, 145, 155 
India Society 101, 104 
Indian National Congress 8, 91 
Indian National Movement 72 
Indian Society of Oriental Art 77, 
78, 113 
Indiana 69 
Ingo-Banga Samaj 1 
Ireland 117 

Irish Theatre movements 86 
Italy 110, 136, 138 139, 142 

Jadavpur University 61 
Jaipur 14 

Japan 58, 65, 66, 123, 152 
Jeejeebhoy, Sir J. 112 
Jhalwar, Maharaja of 115 
Jnanadanandini 7 
Joachim 119 
Jorasanko 2, 5, 18, 82 
Jorasanko house 2, 28, 85 
Jyotirindranath 56, 82 

Kacha and Devayani 119 
Kahn, Albert M. 110, 122, 123, 
124, 125 

Kala-Bhavana 81 
Kalidas 48, 49, 51- 
Kamadev 3 
Kanauj 2 
Kanchenjunga 79 
Kant 6 


Kantik Press 153 

Kar, Surendranath 80, 81, 89 

Karnaprayag 40 

Karp616s, Andr6e and Suzanne 
79, 124, 126, 127, 128, 136, 137 
Katha-o-Kahini 20 
Kathgodam 39 
Keats 102 
Kedarnath 39, 40 
Kensington 102, 103, 104, 121 
Keynes, Prof. 116 
Keyserling, Count Hermann 78, 
130, 131 

Kham-Kheyali Sabha 14-16 
Kheya 64 
Khulna 2 

Klinghoffer, Sisters 119 

Krishnanagar 14 

Kumaon hills 39 

Kuru-Pandava 22 

Kushtia 19. 23, 29, 30, 35, 154 

Kuthibari 75, 98 

Lagerlof, Selma 131, 132 
‘Lalbari’ 79, 148 
Lansdowne, Lady 82 
Laurence 122 
Lausanne 156 

Lawrence, Colonel 101, 114 
Lawrence, teacher 20, 26 
Le Brun, Prof. 125 
Lenin 146 

Lesney, Dr. V. 133, 134 
Levi, Prof. & Madame Sylvain 
124, 125, 127 
Liberal Party 71 
Lodge, Sir Oliver 104 
London 4, 72, 97, 99, 100, 101, 
102, 103, 104, 106, 111, 114, 
120 , 121 

Lutyens, Sir Edward 104 

MacDonald Ramsay 98 
Maghotsava 13, 88 
Mahabharata 21, 22, 46, 144 
Mahalanobis, Prof. & Mrs. P. C 
136, 138 fn 
Mahendra Babu 39 
Maitra, Akshoy Kumar 20, 25, 26 
Maitra, Surendranath 50 fn 
Majumdar, Kshitin 78 



INDEX 


169 


Majumdar, Santosh 45, 58, 59, 64, 
75, 84 

Majumdar, Srish Chandra 45 
Majumdar, Subodh Chandra 45 
Malaviya, Pandit Madan Mohan 
91 

Malay 65 

Malabar 39 

Manasi 1 5 

Mandakini, River 40 

Mandir, (Santiniketan) 44 

Manet 127 

Marseilles 112 

Masaryk, Dr. 133 

Masefield 100 

May dr Kheld 82, 83 

Mazumdar, Akshoy 83 

McCabe 9 

Medea 115 

Mehta, Pherozeshah 17 
Mesopotamia 109 
Meynell, Alice 101 
Mexico 69 
Milton 54 

Minerva Theatre 60 
Mira 52, 55 
Mitter, T. P. 60 
Modern Review, The 98 
Monghyr 55 
Montagu, Mr. 114, 115 
Moody, Mrs. William Vaughan 
108, 137 

Moore, Thomas Sturge 107, 116 
Morgan 155 
Morgentheau, Mr. 155 
Moscow Art Theatre 86 
Mukherji, Prabhat Kumar 153 
Mukherji, Satish Chandra 60 
Mukherji, Sourindramohan 153 
Mullick, Hem Chandra 60 
Miinchen 132 
Murray, Gilbert 115, 116 
Murshidabad 79 
Mussolini 136, 137, 139 

Nadia 19, 29, 30, 37 
Nagendranath 4 
Naidu, Sarojini 118 
Nainital 39 
Naivedya 149 
Nandini 136 


National Council of Education 61 
National Congress 58 
National Liberal Club 71 
National Movement of the Con- 
gress 7 

Natore, Jagadindra Maharaja of 
15, 16, 26 

Naturalist in La Plata, The 105 

Natyaghar 85 

Nauka Dubi 56 

Nawanagar, Jam Saheb 112 

Nevada Street 69 

Nevinson, H. W. 71, 100, 101 

New Delhi 103 

New York 63, 74 fn, 109, 155 

Newman, Cardinal 50 

Newton 113 

Nitindranath 13, 16, 148, 157 
Nivedita, Sister 25, 38, 58, 59 
Noailles, Comtesse de 110, 127 
Nobel Prize 109, 120 
Norway 121 

Nouvelle Revue Francaise 126 

Ocampo, Senora Vittoria 129 
Okakura, Count Kakuzo 58, 66, 
77, 78, 80 

Oriental Art Society 78 
Orissa 5, 29, 34 
Owen, Susan H. Ill 
Owen, Wilfred 110, 111 
Oxford 8, 114 

Pabna 19, 29, 37, 149, 150 
Padma, Boat 33, 34, 37 
Padma, River 19, 23, 24, 33 34, 
36, 37, 75, 98, 149 
Paddington 112 
Pal, Bipin Chandra 59, 60 
Palit, Loken 8, 100, 154 
Palit, Sir Taraknath 8, 154 
Panchanan 2 
Panini 51 

Pankhurst, Miss 106 
Pareshnath Hill 92 
Park Street 5, 6, 7, 83 
Park Street House 1, 6 
Pdribarik Khdta 1 
Paris 4, 121, 122, 126, 127, 129, 
130 

Pathuriaghata 2 



170 


INDEX 


Pavlova 78 
Paush Mela 44 

Pearson, W. W. 87, 112, 116, 117, 
120 , 121 , 122 
Persia 109 
Peru 1 29 

Phdlguni 84, 88, 89 
Phatik 34, 36 
Phelps, Myron 74 
Philippines 69 
Pirali (Pir-Ali) Brahmins 3 
Plunkett, Sir Horace 117 
Plymouth 112 

Post Office , The see Dak-Char 

Potisar 15, 35, 54, 144 

Pound, Ezra 101, 105, 117 

Prague 134. 135 

Prarthana Samaj 41 

Pratima Devi 74, 80 

Prayaschitta 86 

Punjab 39 

Punyaha 36 

Puri 43 

Queen’s Hall 106 

Rabindra-Sadana 129 
Raja 84. 86, 87 
Rdjd-o-Rdni 83, 84 
Rajshahi 25, 29, 37 
Rakhi-bandhan 61 
Ramayana 21, 82 
Ramkrishna Mission 39, 59 
Rani 52, 53, 55 
Ranjit Singhji (Ranji) 112 
Ray,, Mrs. P. K. 83 
Ray, Sukumar 103 
Relief Committee 88 
Reminiscences 57, 77 
Renaissance Movement of Bengal 
3 

Renoir 127 
Renwick 30 

Research Department, Visva- 
Bharati 54 

Review of Reviews 71 
Rewachand (Animananda Swami) 
44, 45 

Rhys, Ernest 101, 106, 115 
Roberts, Charles 115 
Robinson Crusoe 6 


Rochester 108 
Rodin 127 

Roerich, Nicholas 114 
RoIIand, Romain 128 
Ronaldshay, Lord 78 
Rothampstead 72 

Rothenstein, William 78, 100, 101* 
103, 104, 105, 112, 113, 114, 
117, 119 

Roy, Bankim 108 
Roy, D. L. (Dwijendralal) 16, 23, 
25, 153, 

Roy, Dilip 117 
Roy, flemendrakumar 153 
Roy, Jagadananda 43, 46. 52, 85, 
87 

Roy, Rammohan 3. 4 
Roy, Satish Chandra 45. 48, 49. 
157 

Roy, V. 59 

Roy Chaudhuri. Pramathanath 16 
Roza 3 

Rudra, Sudhir 122 
Russell, Bertrand 104, 105 
Russell Square 104 

Sabuj Pair a movement 81 
Sadananda Swami 38 
Sadhana 11, 20, 25, 31, 99, 108 
Sakhi Samiti 83 
Sakuntala 50 
Scima-Veda 43 

Samarendra 6, 15, 76, 77, 89 
Samadhyayi, Brahmuvrata 42 
Samindra (Sami) 52, 55 
San Francisco 67 
Sandhya 50 
San git Samaj 83 

Sankarananda Swami (Amulya 
Maharaj) 39 

Santiniketan 22, 34, 41, 42, 43, 
44, 47, 50, 51, 52, 54, 58, 63. 
65, 66, 75, 81, 84, 86, 88, 89, 
92, 98, 99, 101, 108, 127, 133. 
136, 144, 148. 151, 156, 157 
[ Santiniketan ] Mandir 44 
Santiniketan School 97 
Santiniketan Trust 46 
Sanyal, Bhupendranath 45 
Sdradotsab 52, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88 
Saraladidi 18, 27 



INDEX 


171 


Satyendranath 1, 5, 7, 13, 17, 44, 
83 

Scandinavia 131 
Scott, Sir Walter 6 
Scotti, Duke 138 
Seal, Brajendra Nath 79 
Sen, Atul Prasad 16 
Sen, Kshitimohan 85, 87, 112 
Sen, Mohit Chandra 52, 53, 67, 
157 

Sen, Priyanath 16 
Sen, Sachin 122 
Sepoy Mutiny 4 

Seymour, Dr. & Mrs. 69, 70, 94 
Sahajadpur 35 
Shakespeare 48, 49, 52, 54 
Shaw, George Bernard 106 
Shelidah 9, 15, 16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 
26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 34, 35, 37, 
41, 43, 54, 73, 74, 75, 86, 97, 
98, 99, 149, 150 
Sikshar Herpher 20 
Silsmaria 141 
Simla 151 

Sinclair, May 101, 102, 103, 106 

Sinha, Kaliprasanna 22 

Sinha, Lord 8, 114 

S mar an 53 

Sonar Tori 15 

Sophia 50 

Sorbonne 125 

Spectator 49 

Sriniketan 63, 64, 151 

St. John of the Cross 102 

St. Moritz 141 

Stead, W. T. 71 

Stockholm 131 

Straight, Mrs. Dorothy 70 

Straight, Mrs. Willard 155 

Sudhindra 10 

Suffragatte Movement, The 106 
Sukea Street 153 
Sunday, Billy 70 

Surendranath (Surendada) 21, 22, 
30, 54, 58, 80 
Surul 151 

Swadeshi Movement, The 57, 58, 
62, 63, 65 
Sweden 131 

Switzerland 128, 139, 141, 142 


Tagore & Co. 30 
Taikan 80 
Tapsi 34 
Tapati 83, 84 

‘The Dark Night of the Soul’ 102 
‘The Search after Truth’ 6 
Thorndike, Sybil 115 
Tibet 39 

Tilak, Lokmanya 91 

Timbres, Dr. & Mrs. Harry 87 

Tippera, Maharaja of 25, 83 

Tokyo 66 

Tolstoy 6 

Tovey, Prof. 119 

Trevelyan, Charles 101 

Trivedi, Ramendra Sundar 60 

Trojan Woman 115 

Tubbs, Miss 115 

Underhill, Evelyn 100 
Upadhyaya, Brahmabandhab 44, 
50, 51 

Vpanishads 21, 42, 142 
Urbana 107, 108, 109 
U.S.A. 65, 69, 70, 76, 99, 107, 
108, 109, 154 

Van Doren, Carl 71 
Van Gogh 127 
Vande Mataram 18 
Varendra Anusandhan Samiti, 
Museum 25 
Vedanta 6 

Vichitra Club 16, 80, 81, 88, 90 
Vichitra Hall 90, 91 
Victorian age 4 
Victoria. Queen 4, 5, 130 
Vidya-Bhavana 54 
Vidyarnava, Pandit Shivadhan 41, 
44 

Virgil 48 

Visva-Bharati Library 43, 44 
Vivekananda, Swami 59 

Wagner 135 

Wall Street 155 

Web of Indian Life, The 38 

Webb, Mr. & Mrs. Sidney 118 

Wells. H. G. 100 

Wigmore Hall 118 



INDEX 


Wilson President 133 

Winternitz Prof. 133, 134. 135 

Woburn Place 104 

Wolff, Kurt 132 

Woodroffe, Justice 78 

Woods, Prof, and Mrs. James 125 


Yeats, William Butler 99, 100, 
101, 102, 104, 105, 107 
Y.M.C.A. 68 
Yorkshire 103 

Zetland, Marquess of see Ronald- 
shay, Lord 





The Author 


Born in Calcutta on 27 Novem- 
ber 1888, the author is the 
Poet’s eldest son. He was one 
of the first batch of five stu- 
dents at Santiniketan in 1901. 
Educated at Santiniketan and 
also privately under the gui- 
dance of his father and at the 
University of Illinois, U.S.A., 
where he obtained his B.Sc., 
in Agriculture in 1909. 
Married 1910. Accompanied 
his father on the Gitanjali tour 
to England and U.S.A. in 
1912. Played a leading part 
in the establishment of the 
Vichitra Club in 1917. In 
1921, after the inauguration of 
Visva-Bharati, became General 
Secretary of the Visva-Bharati 
Society. Became the first Vice- 
Chancellor of Visva-Bharati 
when in 1951 it was incorpo- 
rated as a Central University. 
Retired in 1953 for reasons of 
health. Author of several books 
and is also a well known artist 
and craftsman. Breathed his 
last on 3 June, 1961, the year, 
of the birth centenary of the 
Poet.